Why Microsoft should buy HP's PC business

PC vendors can't afford to compete with Apple - their margins won't allow it - which means that PCs are always at a quality deficit against Apple. Only one company has the money and the software to fix the problem: Microsoft.
Written by Robin Harris, Contributor

The tipping point for the PC business isn't 50% but 20% - look at the how Firefox has changed the market - and Apple will be there in as little as 3 years. If Microsoft wants a long-term future, they need to follow Apple's strategy of building integrated products.

As PCs become business tools and casual users move to tablets, quality is more and more important. But PC vendors don't have the money to invest in quality. They can't afford the CNC machines that mill Mac and iPad cases. They can't afford to buy companies - like Siri and fabless semiconductor houses - that have innovative technology that needs nurturing and a platform.

PC vendors are all commodity, all the time, because that's all they can afford.

Microsoft Microsoft, OTOH, has money to burn. Which they do, on everything except strengthening their core OS business against Apple's powerful business model and industrial design mojo.

Of course, Microsoft doesn't have a Steve Jobs. Yet neither, now, does Apple.

Can great design be bought? The fact is that top industrial design talent is readily available. It may not be as good as Apple's internal team, but it doesn't have to be.

Microsoft just has to get close. Intel gets this: their Ultrabook initiative is designed to narrow the gap between MacBook Airs and PC notebooks. If they can, they can hold their own.

But really, given Apple's market share, should Redmond worry? You bet they should.

The tipping point Remember when Explorer owned the browser market? Lots of websites that wouldn't work right with anything else? Thanks to Firefox reaching 20% share, those days are gone.

In computing the tipping point is ≈20%. Apple's share in the US PC market - not counting tablets - is up to almost 14%. At their current growth rate they'll break 20% in the US within 4 years.

This is important because Window's marketing advantage is owes much to the fact that corporate IT departments throw up a huge wall of FUD every time Macs are mentioned. But once the share reaches 20% - among executives especially - IT's bosses will stop listening and tell them to figure it out.

And once that happens the Windows lock on the corporate market will be broken forever.

The Storage Bits take Microsoft's OEM business model has had a good run, but it needs to be augmented. The PC was OK as long as there wasn't anything better, but now there is.

Tight integration between OS and hardware improves quality, reliability and the entire user experience. Someone needs to do it, and Microsoft is the only company that can.

Which is why they should buy HP's PC business. It will be Ballmer's chance to prove he can beat Apple at their own game.

Comments welcome, of course. So maybe HP decides not to sell. There are plenty of other players Microsoft could choose.

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