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HP Exec: Tablets Are Great, But PCs Are 'Indispensable'

Fed up with Apple's claims about the "post-PC era", an HP executive fires back saying that PCs will always occupy a critical role in businesses.

Apple CEO Tim Cook says we're living in a post-PC age, with the implication that Windows is an aging relic that is being relegated to the sidelines of the computing industry.

Not surprisingly, Hewlett Packard, the world's largest PC vendor, doesn't agree.

"While tablets are a great complementary device, the fact remains that personal computers are still indispensable," Mike Parrottino, vice president and general manager of U.S. Channel Sales in HP's Personal Systems Group, told CRN Thursday. "Think about the Fortune 1,000 companies and governments alone who rely on PCs for their infrastructure backbone and security."

HP lacks a tablet, but it is a player in the ultra-thin notebook space, and its Folio 13 and Spectre models have received a positive response at industry events. Still, there's no denying that HP's PC business, which the company flirted with the idea of unloading last year, is going through a rough patch.

In its fiscal first quarter, HP's Personal Systems Group revenue fell 15 percent year over year. PC sales to consumers, already trending downward, dropped 25 percent during the quarter. More troubling to HP, sales to businesses -- which had been a bright spot in previous quarters -- fell 7 percent.

Despite these results, and the fact that Windows 8 tablets are still several months away, HP partners told CRN they're not concerned that booming iPad sales could put a lasting dent on PC sales.

"The Post-PC future is definitely not going to be here anytime soon," said Travis Fisher, executive vice president at Inacom Information Systems, a Salisbury, Md.-based solution provider. "There are always going to be inherent advantages that come with the flexibility that comes with a PC. Some people will find a way to get by without a PC, while others won’t be able to live without them."

[Related: After Rocky Q1, HP CEO Whitman Makes Cost Cutting Top Priority ]

Daniel Duffy, CEO of Valley Network Solutions, a Fresno, Calif.-based solution provider, doesn’t believe that tablets will ever afford users the same productivity as PCs. "When work needs to be done, people need tools that work – not gimmicks," said Duffy. "I recently met with a customer who said they’d returned to PCs because they’d tried other formats and they just didn’t get the job done."

Cook has said that customers are choosing iPads over new PC purchases, and that this cannibalization is affecting Windows PC sales more than Macs. What remains to be seen is to what extent this trend will affect traditional PC refresh patterns.

Meanwhile, Apple's Mobility Technical Competency (MTC), which includes rigorous training and technical requirements for partners that want to handle large scale iPad installations, is driving the iPad further into businesses. Apple is also signing up Microsoft partners, and some HP partners, whose infrastructure expertise is needed for large scale iPad projects.

"We are seeing more and more customers wanting to integrate the iPad and Mac technology into their businesses -- healthcare, financial, services, etc. The technology is solid and gaining ground," said John Gunn, president and CEO of ISG Technology, a Salina, Kan.-based HP partner.

It's clear that the PC's reign as the primary computing device for businesses is over, but that doesn't mean the iPad is going to take over this title. The most likely future scenario, according to solution providers, is that businesses will use a mix of PCs and tablets depending on the needs of their employees.

Parrottino's message to partners is that despite all the post-PC age talk, the role of the PC within the HP channel couldn't be more clear.

"The PC business remains both exciting and promising. It also remains full of opportunity and profitability for channel partners today and in the future," said Parrottino.

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