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Once burned, HP considers big acquisitions again

Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman.Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman.Photograph by Richard Drew—AP

Four years after its controversy-tainted acquisition of Autonomy, Hewlett-Packard is back in the market for potentially big purchases. CEO Meg Whitman left that door open in a discussion with Bloomberg this week.

The company is “back in the M&A game,” she said. “We will augment our core innovation that we do internally, what we call organic innovation, with M&A.”

For HP (HPQ) to spend big bucks going forward, the target company would have to be a game changer that could help HP gain market share from a big competitor, Whitman told Bloomberg.

To be fair, HP never actually stopped buying stuff. It purchased Voltage Security early this year and Eucalyptus last year, but neither of those acquisitions were seen as huge expenditures. There were reports that last HP and EMC (EMC), big competitors in storage, even weighed a merger two years ago. That would have been a biggy—EMC’s current market cap is about $53 billion compared to $60 billion for HP.

HP is locked in a battle with IBM (IBM), Cisco (CSCO), Dell, and other legacy players as many of its customers move more work to cloud computing. As that happens they don’t need to buy as many of HP’s servers and other equipment for use on-premises. Perhaps more importantly, it also faces other massive cloud incumbents in the form of Amazon (AMZN) Web Services, Microsoft (MSFT) and Google (GOOG) which have aggressively built out their cloud computing facilities.

Both battles present a big challenge.

“If you find a company that’s completely disruptive and has a chance to take big share from an incumbent, those valuations might be worth it,” Whitman said. HP will be “disciplined,” however, she said.

This fall, the venerable tech giant will complete its split into two publicly-traded entities. HP Enterprise, under Whitman, will concentrate on cloud computing including high end hardware like “The Machine,” a big-bet piece of experimental hardware that will pool memory and storage into “universal memory.” CPUs, graphical processors, networking and other modules will all plug into that shared resource. The second company, HP Inc., will focus on PCs and printers, under CEO Dion Weisler.

One big acquisition that apparently was considered, but dropped? Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC). Bloomberg reported Thursday that HP took a look at the IT services giant and passed. CSC, with a market cap of about $6.4 billion, like HP is now splitting itself into two entities.

Fortune contacted the two companies for comment and this story will be updated as needed.

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This story was updated at 11:35 a.m. EST with additional context around reported HP talks with EMC.