HP's Whitman promises 'more beautiful' PCs
This Apple company might be onto something
Building PCs and laptops that are better looking and more instantly recognizable to consumers is a key component of HP's strategy to turn around its struggling PC division, according to CEO Meg Whitman.
"I don't think we kept up with the innovation," Whitman said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. "The whole market has moved to something that is more beautiful."
By "the whole market," she means the pack of electronics manufacturers, both in the US and overseas, who are increasingly looking to Apple for inspiration for their products – to say nothing of ways to woo Cupertino's affluent customer base.
While the PC market has been soft for most manufacturers of late – HP's own PC revenues were down 10 per cent in its most recent quarter – Apple has been the notable exception, with Mac sales showing modest gains despite luxury-item pricing.
Todd Bradley, who heads HP's PC division, told the Journal that customers are less focused on price and components in today's market. "People want elegant products that they're proud to carry," he said.
Whitman said she noticed that HP was lagging behind in the industrial design stakes as soon as she joined the company and was issued a corporate laptop. "They gave me a brick," she said.
To remedy the situation, Whitman has beefed up its PC design team, opening two new design centers and adding some 30 staffers. Heading up the makeover effort is Stacy Wolff, a longtime HP exec who is now the company's VP of design.
According to Wolff, HP is going for a "cleaner, more minimalistic look" for its new PCs and laptops – qualities that have been Apple hardware trademarks for many years. That includes things such as a new, standardized color palette for HP gear, as well placing things such as power buttons and AC connectors in consistent places across multiple models.
HP isn't the only company turning to design as a way to revitalize PC sales. Intel is arguably trying to drag the entire laptop industry into the modern design era, kicking and screaming, with its MacBook Air–cloning Ultrabook push.
As Samsung recently found out, it's not always wise to try to emulate Apple's successes too closely, as Cupertino is more than willing to use its patent portfolio to protect its industrial design advantage.
But there's another problem facing HP, which is that in Apple's most recent quarter it sold 4.25 times as many iPads as it did Macs, and 6.5 times as many iPhones. HP's past efforts in the consumer tablet and smartphone markets have been mostly disastrous, leaving it ill-prepared to compete with Apple as consumer buying trends shift from traditional PCs to mobile devices.
HP is rumored to be planning to take another crack at the consumer tablet market soon, and Whitman says an HP smartphone is even in the works, but the hour is getting late. HP can build all the "elegant" laptops it wants, but if it misses the post-PC train, it could soon be left with a product line that looks as passé as last year's designer shoes. ®
Re: So in plain english...
So anything that looks nice is a toy to you?
I'm glad I will never see the inside of your house.
"I don't think we kept up with the innovation"...
unless innovation is: buying up companies, raping the profits, offshoring the work to create even more profit, and leaving behind a dead carcass. At which point they were extremely innovative!
brick is the new shiny
@enigmatix: thanks for 'baubleware'
Everyone: I work with teenagers and people in the 19 to 24 age range (students). Retro is IN. People are paying money for the sort of furniture my Mum threw out three or four decades ago. Students comment on my recycled Thinkpad for heaven's sake ('that looks really... industrial').
Release Compaq Armarda styled brick laptops, heavy ones, complete with optical drives, proper clacky keyboards, Academy ratio screens, but with all new electronics. Make them in chocolate and burnt orange. Make a fortune. Apple won't sue.
Re: So in plain english...
Are you insinuating that Apple products don't last very well or keep their value waaaaaay beyond what the vast majority of PC's do?
Sounds like she might have the right idea, as long as engineering quality goes with the pretty looks.
Mind you, what HP consider pretty probably won't cut the mustard with Apple.
Financial Crisis and Luxury goods
"Apple has been the notable exception, with Mac sales showing modest gains despite luxury-item pricing."
Don't you know that luxury goods are not affected by financial crises, since the people who have the cash to pay for luxury goods are the same that take advantage of the financial crisis ?