HP realigns PC unit with eye toward WebOS sales

EMPHASIS ON TABLETS Chief executive Leo Apotheker is reorganizing HP’s business units to revive growth and take back market share. EMPHASIS ON TABLETS
Chief executive Leo Apotheker is reorganizing HP’s business units to revive growth and take back market share.
By Aaron Ricadela
Bloomberg News / July 12, 2011

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SAN FRANCISCO - Hewlett-Packard Co., the world’s largest computer maker, is reorganizing its personal-computer division as part of a push to broaden use of the software it gained from the acquisition of Palm Inc.

Jon Rubinstein, Palm’s former chief executive, will take charge of product development and innovation for the personal systems group, which encompasses PCs, tablets, and smartphones. Senior vice president Stephen DeWitt will run a new unit responsible for developing and promoting the WebOS computer operating system. Both will report to Todd Bradley, who runs PSG. DeWitt discussed the changes in an interview yesterday.

Hewlett-Packard is counting on the integration of WebOS to differentiate its products from rival machines, including Apple Inc.’s iPad and those using Google Inc.’s Android. Hewlett- Packard chief executive Leo Apotheker said in February that all of the company’s PCs will feature WebOS by the end of next year, a shift away from machines that only run Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating system.

Rubinstein helped create the iMac and iPod at Apple before becoming Palm’s chief executive. He will now be Hewlett-Packard’s senior vice president of product innovation and will work on projects that span the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company, including the printing group, DeWitt said.

“We’re fortunate to have Jon doing that voodoo that he does,’’ DeWitt said. “He’s going to bring his knowledge, experience, and passion for building products across the PSG portfolio.’’

Apotheker is reorganizing business units to revive growth and take back market share after slicing $1 billion from the company’s annual revenue forecast in May. Corporations are wary of large-scale information-technology spending amid concerns about global economic growth, Apotheker said at a July 9 technology conference in Aix-en-Provence, France.

The WebOS operating system includes the ability to run multiple applications at once and lets developers design apps that talk to each other. It also lessens Hewlett-Packard’s reliance on Windows software.

Bradley said in an interview that July 1 was a “soft launch’’ for the TouchPad and that more advertising will start on July 17. The company also plans to issue a software update for the tablet in about 10 days, he said.

Still, the company must compete with Apple’s best-selling iPad tablet and devices running Android software. Hewlett- Packard has “a really good opportunity to become number two in tablets fairly quickly,’’ Rubinstein said in a June interview.