HP rumored to be combining printer and PC groups

Hewlett-Packard is expected to announce a big reorganization today that will combine its printing and PC divisions under a single group, according to AllThingsD.

HP hasn’t commented. The move will have big consequences for HP’s top leadership. Vyomesh “VJ” Joshi, a 31-year veteran at HP and the leader of its Imaging and Printing Group, will resign from the company while the combined business unit will report to executive vice president Todd Bradley.

That’s a huge change for HP, and it could prove to be a very momentous decision for chief executive  Meg Whitman. Whitman replaced former CEO Leo Apotheker, who was fired last September for making poor decisions such as announcing a plan to spin off the PC group.

The reorg is related to cost-cutting and simplification measures that Whitman discussed during her last earnings call. If true, Whitman could be walking into dangerous territory. Joshi was a highly valuable executive and was considered for the CEO job a number of times. He was never picked to be the top dog in part because HP worried that it would lose its other division chiefs if it made one of them the boss. He was also considered to be too focused on just the printing and imaging part of the business, which can sometimes print money.

In the most recent quarter, HP said sales of IPG fell 7 percent to $6.3 billion while operating earnings fell 32 percent. HP attributed that to weakness in Japan as well as flooding in Thailand.

The new plan is to have a combined set of product offerings to approach consumers with. That sounds like something that wasn’t hard to do under the current structure.

Joshi, 57, has run the group since 2002. He was so tied up with the printing division that he must have had ink running in his veins. Bradley’s last big move was to purchase Palm. Bradley, 53, was Palm’s former CEO and has run the HP Personal Systems Group since 2005. Bradley will be in charge of two groups that had $65 billion in sales in 2011, or 51 percent of HP’s overall sales.

If this reorganization works, HP will look a lot more interesting to investors. But if it doesn’t, Whitman’s head will probably roll, just as Apotheker’s did.