Some tech firms are clearly seeing greener pastures in the cloud ? but we still exist in the physical world

Power shifts: HP, the cloud, and the future of hardware

When HP announced it was pulling out of the smartphone and tablet market, and was considering ditching its world beating PC business, many in the tech industry were taken aback, to say the least.

Certainly we were surprised. A few days before the announcement went out, we conducted an in depth interview with a senior HP UK exec about its growing, and already leading, PC business, and its ambitions in the tablet market – which included some bullish remarks about giving Apple’s iPad a run for its money as the category’s top dog.

The move has been compared to IBM’s exit from the PC market, when it sold off its division Lenovo in 2004. And it’s a pertinent comparison. Both are giants in the industry – IBM a pioneer of the personal computer revolution, and HP is currently the biggest manufacturer.

Unlike its smartphone and tablet businesses, it should be remembered HP is only ‘considering’ getting rid of its dominant PC division. But it is doing so in the most public way it possibly can, which is bound to send out signals.

Signals which immediately resounded with a story only the week before, tellingly from IBM. Mark Dean – who is now a chief technology officer at the firm but who co-created the first PC – said they are “going the way of the vacuum tube, typewriter, vinyl records, CRT and incandescent light bulbs.” He apparently prefers tablets.

Strange as that may seem, IBM’s business model is now more in line with a firm like Microsoft’s, fervently fixated on the cloud as both firms are. Many have speculated this is the way HP will go – software and services rooted in the online space.

Cloud services will no doubt one day play a much more dominant role in computing – God knows we’re told so often enough. But there’s no future projection I’ve seen that doesn’t involve some form of hardware with which to make use of it.

The point is, we’re still going to need companies making the desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones whatever happens. Personal computing hardware underpins all these flashy new services, and unless things change fundamentally they always will.

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