HP Stays in the PC Business. Here's What They Should Do With It.

New Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman has decided to reverse one of the last actions of her predecessor and not spin off the Personal Systems Group.  Apparently being the world’s largest PC maker wasn’t so much of a liability after all.  Former CEO Leo Apotheker wanted to follow the highly successful path of IBM in focusing on enterprise servers and services.  IBM sold their PC business to Lenovo as part of that plan, so there was a certain logic that said that HP should do the same.  However, IBM at the time was struggling to keep market share and control costs.  HP by comparison is the market leader and has well mastered high volume low cost operations.

Which brings up the question of what next?

  1. Don’t Try to Resurrect WebOS.
    Just because the ending of the tablet and phone businesses were also announced at the same time as the PC business does not mean that they should also be undone.  Buying Palm was a bad move.  Nothing about that has changed.  Let it die.
  2. Get Back into Mobile Devices and Tablets.
    The Palm/WebOS fiasco not withstanding, the mobile device market is simply too significant to not participate in.
  3. Either Do Something With the Compaq Brand or Kill It.
    Currently HP appends the Compaq title to some products and not others with no apparent logic.  As a result the Compaq brand has been so confused in the public mind that it has no meaning other than ‘that company that made some interesting stuff before HP took them over’.
  4. Create a Premium Brand
    Apple has shown that customers are willing to pay extra for design and perceived quality and that those can provide a halo effect upon a company. Other companies have been trying to step up their design game without rebranding.  But it’s not as effective as a separate name, as evidenced by the experience of the car industry.  When Toyota wanted to make a luxury model, it needed to create Lexus (and Honda created Acura and Nissan created Infiniti etc.)  This, as you might guess, is what I think HP should do with the Compaq brand, although an entirely new brand could also serve.
  5. Stop Following
  6. Every product which I associate strongly with HP (their engineering calculators, Laser printers, plotters, and inkjet printers) are all things where HP was an early leader with good technology. Although getting back into tablets and phones is necessary, it is a reactive move and would have been even if they had made Palm/WebOS work. The new HP premium brand (or the revitalized Compaq) needs to be the place where the next cool thing will come from. Where to find it? Look in science fiction. Every cool thing in the last several decades made its debut in science fiction: doors that open when you walk up to them, small communicators that flip open, tiny headsets, computing that you carry around on a touch tablet, etc.

So what’s out there from the world of science fiction to do? What about a touch screen desktop that is your desktop (like all those consoles from Star Trek Next Generation)? Or maybe a tablet computer with all of the computing power and storage of a desktop because it dynamically shares processing power and storage via wi-fi with your HP desktop, essentially being able to function as a peripheral display-input device? Or the ‘Minority Report’ display that floats in the air and you virtually touch it and talk to it. Maybe even the ‘Terminator’ tiny heads-up-display computer complete with voice recognition and sound built into a bluetooth pair of sunglasses that connects to your phone/tablet along with a variable focus/tint lenses. None of these are actually that far off. Expensive perhaps, but you are not selling a computer. You are selling the future. People will pay for the future.

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1 comment

    • Net_view on November 4, 2011 at 12:57 PM
    • Reply

    “Apparently being the world’s largest PC maker wasn’t so much of a liability after all.”

    Understatement of the century. At least HP’s shareholders were saved by a little common sense before the spin-off occurred.

    While the advice about looking towards science fiction seems reasonable, the ‘allure’ of tech gadgets in sci-fi movies seems much weaker in the tech-heavy world we live in…

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