HP has been making some interesting moves of late. The latest, to acquire Poly, is one of the most interesting, because unlike HP’s more diverse peers that are expanding in all directions, HP is instead focusing on increasing its depth in the desktop and collaboration segments.
Poly, a combination of Polycom and Plantronics that previously went by the name Polycom, is one of the leading suppliers of headsets, cameras and accessories used for telephone and video calls, and for collaboration.
Let’s talk about HP’s desktop, communications and collaboration strategy this week and what the company is putting together.
Building a Strategic Advantage
There are several ways to build a company, many of them very risky. An example of a risky path is to buy into markets you do not know or understand.
The best examples of that were Chrysler in the 1960s and 1970s going into aircraft and yachts, AT&T going into computers and IBM doing telephony. In all three cases the firms thought they were going into similar industries, but they were blind to the unique differences, and the efforts ended catastrophically for both the acquired firms and the firms doing the acquiring.
A far safer path is to saturate an industry you are already in with product selections, and desktop technology is one area HP has down, along with PCs, PC peripherals (including VR headsets), printers, cameras, monitors – and a growing focus on pulling them together into increasingly well integrated office solutions.
As we move to more of a hybrid work model, one of the biggest opportunities is to better integrate telephony and computing, and up until now, only Cisco, which is light in desktop computing, was making this attempt. With the acquisition of Poly, HP is making its own move, and this may inspire the company to again explore the level of integration both AT&T and IBM attempted when telephony and computing were far different.
Why HP’s Approach is Better
When I worked at IBM, I shared a lab and owned the converged PC Telephony desktop products as a Competitive Analyst (I was not a product manager, but I did have to know how these products would compete).
Right now, few of us have an integrated experience. Moving from a call to a video conference to a video collaboration session is not at all elegant or easy. The result of this difficulty is a disconnected mess of cell phones, office phones, PCs, huddle and conference room equipment that create a mess of tools that are needlessly complex to use and manage.
With the Poly acquisition, assuming it is approved, HP is on a path to really clean up the desktop and begin combining these elements so that users can more easily transition to the tools they need as the call evolves to facilitate better collaboration and communication.
Initially, these will be headsets that improve moving from the desk telephone to the Zoom or Teams call. Eventually, the call could come into the PC, making it easier to uplift it into a more collaborative video event dynamically when needed.
If this effort is successful, and it should be, the end game will be desks with fewer things on them and a vastly easier solution for users that need these transactions and for IT to manage. And let us not forget HP’s industry-leading Wolf Security effort: The result should also be a far more secure desktop, something we all need given the state of the world today.
A Complete Desktop Solution
H’’s acquisition of Poly, if successful (and it should be), begins what is potentially one of the biggest battles for control of the desktop. It will rely on Microsoft tools for virtual smartphone integration with the desktop, which will be surrounded by Poly-based peripherals that allow users to more easily and rapidly shift from voice, to video and to collaboration, on the fly and as needed.
It will be interesting to see how HP’s peers respond, but with Poly, HP is making a major step toward owning the most complete desktop solution in the market.