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Potential Suitors: Dell, Acer, Lenovo, Or Samsung?

Face-Off: Does HP's PC Business Affect Us Enthusiasts?
By , Alan Dang

Alan: I'm a creator. Definitely in that camp.

I don't think Dell is going to buy HP's business. HP does not have access to unique system building technology that isn't already available in-house at Dell. The HP brand name for computers (or even VoodooPC brand) isn't inherently bigger or better than Dell/Alienware. If Dell does absolutely nothing, it’ll still be able to pick up HP customers without any extra work. Dell doesn't need the manufacturing or the distribution network that HP can offer.

Chris: Agreed. Dell wins here by keeping its mouth shut and not suggesting to its customers that it might sell off its PC business.

Alan: That takes us to Acer. As the number two computer manufacturer in the country, you might think that Acer is a prime candidate for an HP acquisition. The brand isn't as well-known as Dell or IBM and Acer has already shown an interest in buying up PC brands: Gateway, E-Machines, and Packard Bell are all part of Acer's umbrella. Acer has not made significant inroads in business computing and this is where acquiring HP's EliteBook and HP's Z-series workstation family could pay dividends. There's just one problem. Acer's leaders, J.T. Wang and Jim Wong, have already talked about transitioning Acer away from PCs and focusing on mobile and tablet sales. It seems unlikely that Acer would acquire all of HP's PC business unless it was being sold at a fire sale price. Unlike Dell, Acer is not likely to be the "automatic" next choice.

Chris: Depending on the damage done to HP's business, a fire sale might not be far-fetched.

Alan: And if it's a fire sale like the $100 TouchPads, then it's open season for countless companies. So then we have Lenovo.

Lenovo has already shown its success with the IBM acquisition. Buying HP introduces a considerable amount of risk with little gain. The ThinkPad/ThinkCentre/ThinkStation brand has a lot of traction in business and the IdeaPad/IdeaCentre consumer line offers very good value. Lenovo has had a good track record of profits and has shown that it can maintain a brand's identity even after an acquisition. Customers would trust the company that has shepherded the IBM brand, and although you can talk about pre-Lenovo and post-Lenovo build quality of ThinkPads, Lenovo ThinkPads are still in the upper tier of PCs. Depending on the price of HP's consumer business, Lenovo is on the short list of potential suitors.

Chris: I think the best fit would involve a business with a strong server group, and I'm not certain Lenovo's necessary qualify. With that said, I don't see Lenovo as being any more or less likely to benefit from HP's PCs than Acer.

Alan: Yeah, I just don't know that Lenovo needs two American brands. So I have two companies that we normally don't think about when it comes to PCs. The first is Samsung.

Samsung has shown some innovative new products, such as its Series 9 notebook, but it has almost no role in the desktop PC business. An acquisition of HP would be pretty valuable in engaging in this role. With its LCD, DRAM, HDD, SSD, and optical drive businesses, I could very much see Samsung as a potential suitor for HP, as it could achieve economies of scale that even HP would not have had access to. It even has reason to purchase webOS. That would be an excellent platform to run on its smart TVs, phones, and tablets. Samsung could do what HP couldn't by using Samsung memory, displays, and storage.

Chris: No argument here. Samsung is involved in enough of the supply side that this situation could make sense. Could Samsung extract enough margin from such an arrangement to make the deal worthwhile, though? Again, the lack of a server offering means Samsung is unlikely to succeed with resellers in the same way HP currently does. Then, there's always the recent news that Samsung says it has no interest in HP's PC business.

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