If H.P. goes through with the idea, it would follow I.B.M., an early PC maker, which was one of the first to recognize the long-term problems and, in 2005, sold its business to Lenovo, a Chinese company. Other American makers like Compaq (acquired by H.P.), Gateway and Packard Bell were absorbed by others or just faded away. Depending on how H.P. sheds the unit — it could sell or spin it off as a separate company — only two American PC makers would remain.
Although the world is dependent on personal computers, making them has not been a great business for most American companies for almost a decade.