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

 
 
By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2011-09-28
 
 
 

SAN FRANCISCO-At the tender age of 6, cloud storage and collaboration software provider Box (aka Box.net) 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.

Rocket Fuel