Whitman will have plenty of choices as she decides where to invest the company's savings, said Forrester analyst Frank Gillett said. For one, HP has been investing in thinner, lighter laptop computers known as ultrabooks — devices that are easy to hold like tablets yet more powerful in sporting regular keyboards and the ability to run programs side by side on the same screen.
Gillett also believes there's room for innovation in printing as the way people use printers evolves. He said it'll help to have PC and printer product designers working together.
Though the market might be shrinking, he said, "it's hard to imagine in the next 10 years that we are going to get rid of large, cheap, disposable displays — i.e. paper."
The combined PC and printing unit will be led by Todd Bradley, 53, the executive vice president of the PC group since 2005. Vyomesh Joshi, the head of the printing group, is retiring after 31 years with HP, with a severance package of about $10.8 million, according to the company's regulatory filings. Joshi also is eligible for retirement benefits valued at nearly $7 million as of Oct. 31.
HP said the restructuring will help improve its branding, a challenge for a massive and storied technology company with a role in everything from computers to consulting. Unlike, say, Apple or IBM Corp., HP lacks an identity that people can associate with it, Wu said.
Ultimately, HP will have to define the "big picture" of what the company stands for, Wu said. "What is HP?"
Whitman offered this definition at Wednesday's annual meeting: "HP is the world's largest provider of information technology infrastructure, software, services and solutions to individuals and corporations of all sizes. It's simple, it's clear and it doesn't need a lot of explanation."
Toward the end of the meeting, Whitman discovered she had gotten a part of HP's identity wrong. In her prepared remarks, Whitman said the company would be celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2014. A shareholder corrected her during the question-and-answer session, reminding her that HP started in a Palo Alto, Calif. garage in 1939, which would make the company 75-years-old in 2014.
HP, which is still based in Palo Alto, had briefly combined the PC and printing business businesses before, under the leadership of Carly Fiorina. Mark Hurd reversed that when he took over as CEO in 2005, when the printer division was still thriving.
The printing and PC units together made up about half of HP's $30 billion revenue in the November-January quarter.
HP's stock fell 52 cents, or 2.2 percent, to close at $23.46 on Wednesday.
AP Business Writer Michelle Chapman and AP Technology Writers Michael Liedtke and Peter Svensson contributed to this story. Liedtke reported from San Francisco.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.