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HP PC review ‘to be finished in eight to 12 weeks’

Former Palm chief executive Todd Bradley says HP will decide what to do with its PC division before year-end – while Microsoft woos WebOS developers to Windows Phone

Hewlett-Packard Co will complete a strategic review of its personal computers unit in the next eight to 12 weeks, the company’s PC chief, Todd Bradley, said on Monday.

Bradley, the former Palm CEO who has led HP’s PC division for the past six years, also plans to stay with the PC division of the company – which would include aiming to lead it if it is spun out of HP. The PSG group had revenues of .6bn and profits of 7m in its latest quarterly results.

The world’s largest technology company by revenue shocked investors last week with a series of announcements, including that it might spin off the PC business and would kill its new tablet as part of a major revamping away from the consumer market.

Some of the alternatives HP is exploring for its PC unit include hiving off the business into a separate company through a spin-off or sale. HP had said any move could take 12 to 18 months.

“Work will get completed probably over the next eight to 12 weeks and we will sit down with the board and take them through the results,” Bradley told CNBC.

He added that looking at options for HP’s PC business was a “very, very valid exercise” for the board and company to do.

Meanwhile the discontinued HP TouchPad has been doing bumper business at its new loss-leading price, with the device selling out in Australia and New Zealand, and stocks in stores at Dixons Store Group selling rapidly in the UK after they went on sale for £89 and £115, rather than their previous prices of £350 and £450.

But WebOS, the operating system used on the TouchPad and Pre phones, is already seeing a haemorrhage of developers to Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform.

Last week Microsoft’s senior director of Windows Phone development Brandon Watson offered the prospect of a free Windows Phone and other help to WebOS developers to help port software over to the platform. On Monday he said he had received more than 500 emails from would-be developers and that the figure was heading towards a thousand. In an email sent out to would-be partners, he said “To be honest, we didn’t expect this level of response, so we were caught a bit flatfooted.”

HP’s WebOS-based TouchPad was killed after sales failed to take off. The company is now exploring options for its WebOS software, which it acquired through the acquisition of Palm.

Bradley, who described WebOS as a “strategically important asset,” said the company has received interest from “a number of large parties” interested in licensing the software since the announcement.

The executive, the internal front-runner for the HP CEO job before it went to Leo Apotheker last year, also knocked down widespread speculation in Silicon Valley he was looking to leave HP.

“There are plenty of ridiculous rumours on the internet today, all unfounded,” he said, adding he plans to work through the PC unit review process.

“At the time of whatever action is determined with the PC business, then if it’s a spin-out it will be my intent to lead that,” he said. “If it stays within HP, I plan to continue to run it.”

HP shares, which fell 20% on Friday, closed up 3.6% at .45 on the New York Stock Exchange in a market that was broadly up.

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