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. ®


Other stories you might like

  • Workers win vote to form first-ever US Apple Store union
    Results set to be ratified by labor board by end of the week

    Workers at an Apple Store in Towson, Maryland have voted to form a union, making them the first of the iGiant's retail staff to do so in the United States.

    Out of 110 eligible voters, 65 employees voted in support of unionization versus 33 who voted against it. The organizing committee, known as the Coalition of Organized Retail Employees (CORE), has now filed to certify the results with America's National Labor Relations Board. Members joining this first-ever US Apple Store union will be represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM).

    "I applaud the courage displayed by CORE members at the Apple store in Towson for achieving this historic victory," IAM's international president Robert Martinez Jr said in a statement on Saturday. "They made a huge sacrifice for thousands of Apple employees across the nation who had all eyes on this election."

    Continue reading
  • PC shipments sink amid steady waves of supply chain, war disruptions
    320 million units forecast, still well above pre-pandemic, but boom is over for now

    Orders for PCs are forecast to shrink in 2022 as consumers confront rising inflation, the war in Ukraine, and lockdowns in parts of the world critical to the supply chain, all of which continue.

    So says IDC, which forecast shipments to decline 8.2 percent year-on-year to 321.2 million units during this calendar year. This follows three straight years of growth, the last of which saw units shipped rise to 348.8 million.

    Things might be taking a turn for the worse but they are far from disastrous for an industry revived by the pandemic when PCs became the center of many people's universe. Shipments are still forecast to come in well above the pre-pandemic norms; 267 million units were shipped in 2019.

    Continue reading
  • Apple dev roundup: Weather data meets privacy, and other good stuff
    No AR/VR glasses but at least RoomPlan will let you make rapid 3D room maps

    WWDC Apple this week at its Worldwide Developer Conference delivered software development kits (SDKs) for beta versions of its iOS 16, iPadOS 16, macOS 13, tvOS 16, and watchOS 9 platforms.

    For developers sold on seeking permission from Apple to distribute their software and paying a portion of revenue for the privilege, it's a time to celebrate and harken to the message from the mothership.

    While the consumer-facing features in the company's various operating systems consist largely of incremental improvements like aesthetic and workflow enhancements, the developer APIs in the underlying code should prove more significant because they will allow programmers to build apps and functions that weren't previously possible. Many of the new capabilities are touched on in Apple's Platforms State of the Union presentation.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022