HP has announced that:
- HP is buying Autonomy.
- HP is pulling back from WebOS.
- HP may spin off its PC business altogether.
On a high level, this means:
- HP is doubling down on enterprise IT.
- HP is taking a more software-centric approach to the enterprise IT business.
- HP is backing away from the consumer electronics business.
- HP in particular is backing away from the generic desktop/laptop PC business, which may with only moderate exaggeration be regarded as:
- The intersection of the enterprise IT and consumer electronics businesses.
- The least attractive sector of each.
My coverage of Autonomy isn’t exactly current, but I don’t know of anything that contradicts long-time competitor* Dave Kellogg’s skeptical view of Autonomy. Autonomy is a collection of businesses involved in the management, search, and retrieval of poly-structured data, in some cases with strong market share, but even so not necessarily with the strongest of reputations for technology or technology momentum. Autonomy started from a text search engine and a Bayesian search algorithm on top of that, which did a decent job for many customers. But if there’s been much in the way of impressive enhancement over the past 8-10 years, I’ve missed the news.
*Dave, of course, was CEO of MarkLogic.
Questions obviously arise about how the Autonomy acquisition relates to other HP businesses. My early thoughts include:
- HP has clearly signaled that it intends to pursue and focus on the data management business. Thus, we can anticipate marketing messages spanning Autonomy and Vertica. It may be helpful to recall that Vertica plays nicely with both Hadoop and Attensity.
- The first two natural tuck-in acquisitions I can think to add are Attensity and MarkLogic.
- One place I’d look for synergy is with HP’s system management software business. HP has previously acquired its way into a strong position there. If you add in knowledge of how many kinds of data are used, you have a chance to set yourself apart in the system management area.
- I had enough trouble advising Vertica about how to explain what they do in terms that HP’s hardware sales force can comfortably embrace. I think I did OK with that. But Autonomy? Youch. On the other hand, …
- … HP is run by guys from SAP (Leo Apotheker) and Oracle (Ray Lane), both of whom have dealt with similarly tough sales challenges before. But even at best, HP’s sales force organization, commission structure, and training is going to consume a lot of attention at the very highest levels of HP.
- Autonomy manages documents electronically. HP prints them. The markets where that seems synergistic, however, are fairly specialized or small. (E.g., equipment for printing on demand.) Perhaps there’s some grand joint venture possibility with Xerox here, antitrust permitting.