HP deep-sixes webOS; are PCs the next to go?

Leo Apotheker

HP CEO Léo Apotheker eyes transforming HP into a cloud and software giant.

The HP of 2012 may look different than the HP solution providers have worked with for a long time.

In a brief but very impactful statement this afternoon, Hewlett-Packard announced that it is discontinuing operations of its webOS devices, including its recently launched TouchPad tablets and webOS-based smartphones.

And then it dropped the big one – HP is apparently looking to spin-off or sell-off its Personal Systems Group, a move that would effectively take Hewlett-Packard (and by proxy Compaq) out of the personal computer markets in which they have so long been major players.

From HP’s statement:

HP also reported that it plans to announce that its board of directors has authorized the exploration of strategic alternatives for its Personal Systems Group (PSG). HP will consider a broad range of options that may include, among others, a full or partial separation of PSG from HP through a spin-off or other transaction.

In addition, HP reported that it plans to announce that it will discontinue operations for webOS devices, specifically the TouchPad and webOS phones. HP will continue to explore options to optimize the value of webOS software going forward.

If there was ever any doubt that CEO Léo Apotheker is willing to make big moves to remake HP into what he believes it should be in the future, this should erase it. But it also sends a troubling message – as recently as two months ago, HP described webOS as a key component of any number of its businesses, from the consumer to the enterprise.

However, Apotheker’s background is in software, and in his first earnings call after taking over the company, he said he’d like to double or triple the company’s software business. Following that line of thought, HP confirmed “that it is in discussions” with UK-based database developer Autonomy, which would likely fit into HP’s push towards Apotheker’s vision for HP as a cloud provider – both with its own public- and private-cloud offerings and with cloud systems powered by the products of its Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking group.

Rounding out a busy HP news day, the company announced preliminary results of its third fiscal quarter of 2011, which includes revenues of $31.2 billion, up about  $500 million from last year. While that year-over-year growth is good, HP also said it expects to see revenues for its full fiscal 2011 in the $127.2 billion to $127.6 billion range, down from its previous guidance of $129 billion to $130 billion.

The company is slated to hold a conference call later this afternoon to discuss those results, as well as the webOS decision and looming PSG decision.