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HP merges computer and printer units
by Staff Writers
San Francisco (AFP) March 21, 2012

Hewlett Packard Romania hit by anti-trust probe
Bucharest (AFP) March 21, 2012 - The Romanian unit of US computer giant Hewlett Packard is under investigation for possible abuse of its dominant market position, the Romanian anti-trust watchdog said on Wednesday.

HP's offices in Romania were raided by investigators and documents seized, the country's national competition council said in statement.

"We suspect HP Romania of possibly abusing its dominant position through discriminatory behaviour towards certain partners and contractors," the council's head Bogdan Chiritoiu said.

The alleged abuse involves supplies and parts for computer printers, he said.

If the infractions are proven, HP Romania could face fines as high as 10 percent of total sales, the watchdog said.

Hewlett-Packard on Wednesday said it is combining its computer and printer units to free up more cash for innovation in the rapidly evolving technology market.

HP will combine its Imaging and Printing Group and its Personal Systems Group (PSG) into an entity headed by Tom Bradley, who has been PSG executive vice president since 2005.

HP declined to comment when asked whether the corporate reorganization would result in a cut in its work force.

"We have no specific announcements about changes to headcount at this time," an HP spokesman told AFP.

The merging of the units comes as growth in the printer market, once a gold mine for the company, slows to a trickle and people increasingly turn to smartphones and tablets for their Internet needs.

HP last month reported lower quarterly net profit and revenue as slumping personal computer sales dragged down earnings at the world's largest computer maker.

Palo Alto, California-based HP said net profit fell 44 percent during the first quarter of its fiscal year to $1.5 billion compared to the same quarter a year ago, while revenue was down seven percent to $30.0 billion.

HP chief executive Meg Whitman said in an earnings conference call that the company was "taking the necessary steps to improve execution, increase effectiveness and capitalize on emerging opportunities."

Whitman last month told a gathering of entrepreneurs and executives that HP will take another shot at Apple's iPad with the release late this year of a tablet computer geared for work instead of play.

The tablet will run on Microsoft Windows 8 software and take on iPad in the workplace, where HP will bank on its reputation and its strengths in providing gear and services to businesses, according to Whitman.

"It is not really a tablet market, it is an iPad market," Whitman said at a Wall Street Journal Viewpoints West event in Silicon Valley.

HP will release by Christmas a new tablet tailored for security, productivity and business network compatibility, said Whitman.

"There is a big trend to BYOD to work; which is all well and good until there is a security breach," she said, referring to people increasing bringing their own devices such as iPhones or iPads to use on the job.

"We are going to provide an alternative."

A blockbuster hit with people in their personal lives, iPads have been gaining traction in workplaces. Apple sold three million iPads during the weekend following the release of a third-generation model on Friday.

HP made a dismal initial foray into the tablet market last year with a TouchPad powered by webOS mobile operating system software it acquired as part of its $1.2 billion purchase of Palm in 2010.

Citing disappointing sales, HP decided to discontinue the TouchPad just seven weeks after it hit the market.

HP's first tablet to take on iPad "was not a happy ending," admitted Whitman.

Whitman, a former chief executive of eBay and unsuccessful candidate for governor of California, took the reins at HP in September after her predecessor, Leo Apotheker, was ousted after just 11 months on the job.

HP said revenue declined 15 percent at its PC unit during the quarter, with commercial sales down seven percent and consumer sales falling by 25 percent.

The low-margin PC market has been flat amid an astronomical increase in powerful smartphones and the arrival of hot-selling tablet computers such as the iPad.

HP printer revenue was down seven percent in the quarter.

HP on Wednesday also said it was reorganizing its sales, marketing, real estate, and communications units.

"Ensuring we have the right organizational structure in place is a critical first step in driving improved execution," said Whitman.

HP's stock price slid more than a percent to $23.60 a share as the close of the trading day neared Wednesday in New York City.

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China passes US in smartphone activations: report
San Francisco (AFP) March 21, 2012 - China has passed the United States when it comes to how many people are adopting smartphones and tablets powered by Apple or Google software, mobile analytics firm Flurry said Wednesday.

China seized the global lead for "smart device" adoption in February and is on pace to be the country with the highest concentration of such gadgets being used by its citizens, according to Flurry.

"China is now the world's fastest growing smart device market," the Flurry report said.

Flurry projected that for March, China will account for 24 percent of all Apple and Android mobile gadget activations, compared to 21 percent for the United States.

China also leads the world when it came to the rate at which people are using hip, fun or helpful "apps" on mobile devices, according to Flurry.


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S. America frets over slow China growth
Rio De Janeiro (UPI) Mar 19, 2012
Latin American countries see a Chinese economic slowdown and eurozone crisis as major threats that could reverse their own gains in recent years, an Inter-American Development Bank report said. Current projections for growth in Central and South American economies are down from recent trends, amid fears over China's future direction and eurozone woes. Further concerns that a U.S. econom ... read more

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