HP confirms it will explore spinning off PC business

[Update: HP has confirmed it is considering spinning off the PC business].

In addition to buying Autonomy for $10 billion, Hewlett-Packard is rumored to be contemplating a spin-off of its personal computer business, according to a report by Bloomberg.

If true, that would be a drastic change from past strategies, and it would undo the famous HP-Compaq merger that was engineered by then-CEO Carly Fiorina a decade ago. HP is the world’s largest computer maker and its legacy in computer hardware goes back generations.

Bloomberg’s report was light on details, but it notes that HP’s current CEO, Leo Apotheker, has put an emphasis on software and services. Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP is reporting quarterly earnings after the markets close today. Those services are expected to be cloud offerings provided over the internet. HP has reportedly wanted to lessen its dependence on low-margin PCs, but for years HP has sold its hardware and software as a one-stop shop.

Hewlett-Packard shares fell 53 cents to $30.86 in trading so far today, after jumping as much as 8.3 percent. To date, HP stock is down around 25 percent this year. HP hasn’t yet commented.

While HP was going the other direction with integration of hardware, software and services, a PC spin-off isn’t unheard of. IBM spun out its PC business, and it became Lenovo in a combination with China’s Legend.

One longtime tech analyst greeted the news report skeptically.

“It has come up every 12-18 months for the last 6 years,” said Richard Doherty, an analyst at the Envisioneering Group. “This could just be a [a trial balloon] to see how the market reacts to idea.”

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