HP's big announcement yesterday that it was “exploring strategic alternatives for its PC and mobile businesses mobile devices discontinuing, exploring options for WebOS” to focus on software and services is a bold but extremely treacherous move. While the comparisons to IBM have been bandied about on the Web all day, in Forrester’s mind this is a very different time than when IBM began that shift almost 20 years ago. The market today is very different, making it much harder for HP to execute the pivot.
The services business, especially the outsourcing segment, has stalled out. There is no better example than HP’s own services business, which has shown negative growth over the last two fiscal years. It is becoming increasingly clear that IT shops think that pursuing a cloud strategy public or private is the way to keep control and not have to outsource.
The software business may be on the same brink of fundamental change as mobile and as a service combine to change the pricing, delivery model, and focus of innovation. There is also a fundamental shift away from spending on the traditional systems of record like ERP to systems of engagement with customers, partners, and the business decision-maker. The $10 billion Autonomy Corp deal is targeted at the analytics element that will underpin many of these systems of engagement. The analytics space is getting increasingly crowded as IBM, Accenture, and Deloitte seem to acquire an analytics software firm on a weekly basis.
Earlier this morning, Google announced its intention to buy Motorola Mobility for 12.5 billion in cash or $40/share. There are three broad justifications for the deal:
Access to the Motorola patent portfolio which it could then license to partners like HTC and Samsung to protect against the long arm of Apple's lawyers.
An integrated hardware/software play to compete with Apple. The problem with this logic is that the deal does not address the fragmentation on the Android platform, which is the bigger issue.
The set-top business to bolster its lagging Google TV offering.
This said, the deal leaves Google in a very awkward position of being half-pregnant and trying to be a provider of an open source "environment" while at the same time competing with its "customers." It also means that there are four integrated hardware/software offerings: Apple/iOS, HP/WebOS, RIM/QNX, and now Google/Motorola, and potentially a 5th if this deal emboldens Microsoft to pull the trigger on the long-rumored full takeover of Nokia. The Apple story of simplicity and focused innovation at the app level has won out over complexity and innovation at all levels. Unfortunately, the deal extends the overall market fragmentation at a platform level well into 2013 to the frustration of developers.
So where does this leave the Asian OEMs HTC, Samsung, and LG? If Microsoft passes on the Nokia acquisition, this deal could throw Windows Mobile a temporary lifeline. Forrester can hear Steve Ballmer and company pitching the Asian players on how Microsoft is the only hardware agnostic player left and that HTC, Samsung, and LG should increase their support for Windows Mobile as protection against Google favoring its own hardware play.