Box's New HP Partnership: Clue to U-Turn in PC Plans?

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2011-09-28 Print this article Print

Although HP announced last month that it is getting out of the PC business, Box's news event indicates that it might be ready to recast that thought.

SAN FRANCISCO-At the tender age of 6, cloud storage and collaboration software provider Box (aka is barely past the startup phase, yet it is already putting on world-class launch events similar to those staged by much larger and better-known companies.

On Sept. 28, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company, which already has 7 million consumer users and 100,000 business-level customers to go with an impressive list of enterprise partners, mounted its first partner show, BoxWorks, and introduced some new features for its frontline product-itself legitimate news.

But some relevant information at the SRO event at Hotel Nikko here extended way beyond the Box domain.

For example, an announcement that Box and Hewlett-Packard have moved into a partnership that will install Box's software on an unspecified number of laptop and desktop PCs is interesting on the surface because it makes those PCs all the more valuable. However, because HP announced Aug. 18 that it is going to sell, spin off or shutter its PC division in the near future, does this news indicate that HP is planning an about-face to keep its PC division after all?

Companies do not make strategic agreements like this-investing time, money and staff into a new initiative-knowing that the division involved is going to disappear in a puff of smoke in a few months.

"We realize that it's important to work with great partners in order to take advantage of this wave [of mobile devices and cloud computing]," Kathy Chou (pictured), vice president of strategy and operations for HP's Personal Systems Group, told the audience. "We're the largest PC manufacturer in the world; we ship more than 50 million PCs annually in 170 countries. Then we look at Box: the best secure cloud collaboration utility in the world.

"We looked at alternatives, and we found that Box was far and away more advanced and superior to those other companies. On every new desktop that we ship, starting in the U.S. with business customers, we'll load Box. Then we are definitely expanding to the other customer segments globally. We're looking at this partnership to be fruitful for both companies for years to come," Chou said.

Not Ready to Give Up PCs?

That doesn't sound much like a company ready to give up on its $41 billion-per-year laptop and desktop business.

HP's Personal Systems Group communications office did not respond Sept. 28 to a query from eWEEK. But that's not surprising; the company is wading through a major leadership change, and this affects all divisions directly. Few people are allowed to talk about topics like this during a time of upheaval at the venerable company.

There have been other indications that HP might change its mind on its "Dump the PC" strategy. Last week, when HP announced the appointment of Meg Whitman as its new CEO, replacing Leo Apotheker after a rocky 11-month tenure, Whitman said: "HP will continue to invest in servers, storage, networking, printing, PCs and service offerings."

Stay tuned.

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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