back to article HP's Whitman promises 'more beautiful' PCs

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 …


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  1. Christian Berger Silver badge

    So in plain english...

    She wants to build toys not tools.

    I'm sorry, but HP used to be a respectable company. They made the first scientific calculator watch, not because there was a market for it, but simply because it was a cool idea.

    Now it seems they want to stake their reputation on worthless consumer products, cheaply produced in China, and thrown away before the warranty runs out.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So in plain english...

      >Now it seems they want to stake their reputation on worthless consumer products, cheaply produced in China, >and thrown away before the warranty runs out.

      That's where the money is :)

      1. Christian Berger Silver badge

        Re: So in plain english...

        Well the money might be in disposable computers _now_, but just think about the future. What if finally that "economy crisis" everybody talks about arrives?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So in plain english... @Christian Berger

          The last time I checked, what is inside the machine that does all the work. No matter how the outside look, the performance of the device depend on what they put inside it. So what is wrong with having a nice looking high performance machine? Don't tell me that a big trackpad is going to distract you from working!

    2. Sandtitz Silver badge

      In plain english...

      ...she wants HP to make profit. If the HP gear pleases the customers' eyes at the same time - even better.

      Your calculator analogy sucks:

      HP bought Palm for billion dollars, then HP produced for a limited time the TouchPad - not because there was a market for it. It tanked and millions of dollars were wasted on it.

      But I'm sure it was a cool idea. Just like Apotheker + board thought that $10 billion for Autonomy was a really cool idea.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      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.

      1. JEDIDIAH

        Re: So in plain english...

        Fads in fashion become dated quickly.

        That must mean your house looks just wretched.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So in plain english...

      I#m sorry, but have you used a HP product over the past ten years? Do you think their laptops and desktops aren't made in China already, that they aren't thrown on the skip before their time because of all the cruft?

      HP had a reputation, but that time is long gone. Might as well ask Ford what Henry would do today. Nokia should be a warning to HP; all it took was a few years of sleeping at the wheel and it's all over...

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So in plain english...

      Good looking tech doesn't have to be badly made or a toy. The trouble is that HP make pig-ugly kit that's expensive, underpowered, shoddy and unreliable - it's in their DNA now. I wouldn't buy anything from them.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: So in plain english...

        That comment doesn't just apply to their consumer gear.

    6. Snapper
      Thumb Down

      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.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: So in plain english...

        I think that we are, as a species, prone to judging the insides of things by the outsides. If a potential mate looks well put together on the outside, we take that as an indicator of good insides- i.e health.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So in plain english...

      So on the one hand you want "cool stuff" but on the other hand you don't want "cool stuff"?

      Ermmm OK....

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That's odd, the HP laptops we have at work look remarkably similar to Macbook Pros.

    To look noticeably like HP machines you need your own design cues and a coherent range of designs. You also need to stick to this and not randomly change designs. Your designs need to evolve too.

    Whitman must also have a close relationship with their product designers, Although a company like HP produces that much tat that she won't have time to look at much of it.

    1. Tom 35 Silver badge

      Keys that don't start falling off a week after the warranty is over might be something to think about too.

      Only 2 HP laptops left. Dell Vostro costs about the same but stands up better, and Dell will sell me a new keyboard (or anything else), not say it is "not a user serviceable part, send it in for service".

    2. KnucklesTheDog

      I used to have a HP Pavilion laptop, I though it looked really good (nothing like a Mac either). Unfortunately it suffered the notorious GPU burnout problem just after the guarantee ran out with just 2-3 hours of light use a week for a year.

      Tried to complain (HP had already refused to recall that Pavilion model, although they did recall some others - Apple and Dell recalled all their laptops with the same problem) and was told the only avenue for formally doing so was to log a support call at a cost of around £55.

      Replaced it with a Mac book which is still going strong 3 years later.

      Copying some cases isn't going to help HP, they already had a great looking product range.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    way to go Meg

    your so smart and a head in the curve! that must be why they pays all the big dollars to you!

    can I be you one day?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Instantly Recognizable

    That big HP Logo doesn't do it?

  5. joejack

    I think they're going to need more than just good designers

    The Envy 14t looks like a Macbook Air clone. With 256GB SSD, 8GB RAM, and a Core i7, it's $2000.

    A comparably spec'd Air is $200 less (although the Envy does have a nicer14" 1600x900 screen).

  6. JeffyPooh Silver badge

    How about this?

    HP should try a less annoying and quieter CEO for a change.

    It's The Products Stupid, not the cult of the CEO. CEOs are a dime a dozen, even cheaper by the ten-pack.

    1. FrankAlphaXII Silver badge

      Re: How about this?

      Like I said about a year ago, she's a bottle blonde troll. And an annoying one at that. It almost makes you miss Carly, Mark and Leo.

  7. Stu 18

    I'm still hurting

    From the last purchase of HP workstations that have had continuous failures of their displayport to dvi dongles and a couple of 'high end' HP laptop graphics stations that simply must have been a lemon model that has caused lots of grief and downtime trying to get warranty support replacements.

    We've had a lot of HP gear over the years, but I'm less convinced than ever of their quality.

    1. Mike 16 Silver badge

      Re: I'm still hurting

      Seconded (well, fifthed, from the other comments). Looking better would not help. They need to actually go back to making non-crap products. Not that it would really help with me. They are dead to me after my last (home) all-in-one and constant pain of their blade servers.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "a lot of HP gear over the years, but I'm less convinced than ever of their quality."


    The rot started with HP printers, which once upon a time were rock solid and reliable and actually decent value for money, but then they became disposable. Unfortunately for HP the disposable ones reliability and running costs also ensured that the replacements frequently came from someone other than HP, if users had the choice. And this now seems to be Whitman's preferred corporate strategy?

    I still use a five year old HPQ business class laptop (and have had CPQ since Armada days) but I'm reluctant to "upgrade" to the current equivalent.

    Have HP broken modern Proliant designs the same way they've broken their service and support organisations in general?

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: "a lot of HP gear over the years, but I'm less convinced than ever of their quality."

      I've still got a 10 year old HP printer going on the shelf. Does me well, although I need to clean the rollers so it takes ONE page at a time. My old laptop was also rock solid. I was not impressed with the next model they released though, it was all "wobbly" IMO.

    2. Magnus Ramage

      Re: "a lot of HP gear over the years, but I'm less convinced than ever of their quality."

      We have an 8-year old HP laser printer at home, which works a treat, except they refused to issue proper Windows 7 drivers for it, and the ones I do have work with one of our Win7 laptops but not the other. Very frustrating.

      On the other hand, my TouchPad is a really good piece of hardware (problems with WebOS notwithstanding) and my wife's mini-laptop (netbook format and price but proper screen & processor) is excellent and great value for money. Both these latter two are pretty elegant too. So I wouldn't write off HP quite yet.

  9. Hans 1 Silver badge

    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 ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Financial Crisis and Luxury goods

      Hey, I have a Mac, does that mean that I can take advantage of this crisis too? Or do I first need to emigrate to Greece?

  10. bolts25

    More of the same .......

    Innovation is NOT aping the leader. Do that and your product will cost much more than the leader, you will always come second at a lower price and you will slowly go out of business.

    This seems to be the trajectory of HP at the moment. What a great company it used to be. Now it rarely designs anything (outsourced to Chinese PC manufacturers) and it hasn't made anything for a decade.

    So today Meg thinks the answer is to copy the MacBook. Yesterday the answer was to copy the iPhone, and I am sure they have someone working on copying the iPad. How profound.

    Where is the innovation?

    The long and slow decline of what was once a great company. Fire the board and the senior management team. No one would notice.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: More of the same .......

      Innovation is NOT aping the leader. Do that and your product will cost much more than the leader, you will always come second at a lower price and you will slowly go out of business.

      ... and if that leader is Apple, you'll get smothered in lawsuits as an additional bonus.

      1. Mark .

        Re: More of the same .......

        Oh, it's only the other way round - when Apple are losing, they sued the leader for a billion dollars...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: More of the same .......

          >Not HP Innovate. No one believed it either way.

          And I don't believe that they have research labs near Bristol. I don't believe the people I know who work there, really work there, or are trying to determine the angular momentum of individual gas molecules with a laser. Amongst other random things. I don't believe HP are trying to develop a 'memristor'. Okay, they haven't really done much with Stratasys, who are going their separate way

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Where is the innovation?

      "I don't think we kept up with the innovation ...The whole market has moved to something that is more beautiful"

      So, shiney is the new innovation, apparently. The future is baubleware.

      HP today is definitely not "Hewlett Packard" any more and hasn't been for a long time. It's succumbed to the whole corporate, brand-led, facile MBA bullshit to try and put a gloss on the fact that it is peddling mass market crap, frantically playing a game of catch-up in a crowded market. It will all end predictably enough but by then Whitman will be hoping she's raked in the bonuses and vested the options.

      I don't know why this annoys me but it does.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re:"Where is the innovation?"

      HP Invent.

      That's what they said.

      Not HP Innovate.

      No one believed it either way.

      1. daveeff

        Re: Where is the innovation?"

        HP Incompetent

        seems to be the order of the day :(

  11. keithpeter

    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.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: brick is the new shiny

      You might be onto something... certainly there has been a spate of 'retro' Range-finder looking cameras in the last few years. A laptop built around the same cues might even go down well with the baby-boomers who actually have the money to spend on laptops.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: brick is the new shiny

      You're definitely on to something here - steampunk goes mainstream plus the age of austerity heralds brick shithouse designs that put function over form with robustness and longevity as the brand values.

      Volvo brings back the 340DL, Saab comes back to life.

      I'm in.

      Time to watch Mad Max (the original) for more inspiration.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: brick is the new shiny

        Do watch it. Bloody refreshing to have no CGI in a film.

  12. sniperpaddy

    "Heading up the makeover effort is Stacy Wolff, a longtime HP exec"

    OMFG !!!


    Now they're compounding their mistakes by using an old school party hack to head a new initiative.

    That's like dragging a dead cow behind your new Porsche.


    I said it again and again, they need to get some real tech heads back up in the ELT ranks, not this series of fast talking marketing types. Doing otherwise, guarantees stagnation.

    1. Snapper

      Re: "Heading up the makeover effort is Stacy Wolff, a longtime HP exec"

      Just watched Robert Cringely's "Steve Jobs - The Lost Interview" from 1995. SJ said then that HP had lost it's way because the marketing and sales types were the only ones who could 'really' show what they were doing, get promoted and eventually run the company, just like most of corporate America.

      Let's face it, Apple was clearly doomed in 1995 and it took SJ's design fixation and attention to detail on the products to fix it. Now look where Apple is!

      1. JEDIDIAH

        Re: "Heading up the makeover effort is Stacy Wolff, a longtime HP exec"

        > Now look where Apple is!

        They basically abdicated the PC market to Windows.

        That's hardly useful to HP. What advice should they take from your gushing over jobs? That they should find some other line of business to be in?

        They floated that idea already.

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: "Heading up the makeover effort is Stacy Wolff, a longtime HP exec"

          What advice should they take from your gushing over jobs?

          Apparently, that it takes fanatical dedication to the pope ^W^W^W to get a failing company back on its feet again.

          I doubt that HP is the type of company that it would work for.

        2. sniperpaddy

          Re: "Heading up the makeover effort is Stacy Wolff, a longtime HP exec"

          I'm definitely not an Apple fan but Steve Jobs did succeed so I do seriously examine what he had to say for core truths (unlike Carli Fiorini & Meg Whittaker et al)

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    HP Jornada 720 for the modern era?

    Never mind Compaq Armada (of which I have several), how about HP's very own Jornada 720 "handheld PC". Beatifully engineered, touch screen, real keyboard (not Psion class but not far off). ARM powered, obviously.

    Let down by the MS OS and apps but a modern equivalent with Android would do fine.

    Will they do one?

  14. Mark .

    "But there's another problem facing HP, which is that in Apple's most recent quarter [snip]"

    I'm not sure why that's a problem for HP. It may be a missed opportunity, but it's about as relevant as quoting sales of some company that sells even more cars, or something, and then going on about how HP's attempts to enter the car market haven't done so well.

    So Apple are better at selling toys and phones than they are at making computers. Well, Samsung and Nokia sell even more phones than Apple.

    And I hope they don't make PCs that look like Apple's. I much prefer the sleek and shiny look of black or various colourful PCs; the dull silver looks like an 1970s attempt to look futuristic, which now just looks dated. The wedge-shaped look makes me think of cheese, and comes at the expense of functionality. And the last thing I want on my computer is a light-up logo - tacky.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    " to say nothing of ways to woo Cupertino's affluent customer base."

    Surely you meant 'gullible'.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Affluent?

      "Surely you meant 'gullible'."

      or "effluent"?

  16. Richie 1

    Pretty isn't everything

    I have a recent HP Probook and while it is a little brickish, the extra thickness gives room for more ports. It's also got a great screen and runs like stink for something that cost less than half the price of the Apple equivalent.

    Uncool => better value for consumers.

    1. daveeff

      Re: Pretty isn't everything

      It is if you're a 13 year old TOWIE watching chav who seem to the market for "computers" - or at least a sizable enough chunk of market to make bling a necessairy element.

      As for the rest of us ... given 90+% of all computers will do what I need and cost differences (discounting Apple's extortion) are small AND the computer lays about the lounge / is seen under my arm looks get to have a significance.

      It's a consumer product not a technical buy.

      How many Fords would they sell if Henry was still spec'ing the colour chart?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It will never going to work

    HP together with Toshiba, Samung, Acer, Lenovo and others did nothing but flooding the retail channel with almost identical size, dull black/grey colored with low resolution lousy glossy screen laptops and desktops. Whenever you get into the PC section of big retailers you notice right away there is no differentiation. There is nothing to inspire you, nothing to elicit that "wow" you hear when you look at each new generation of Mac. Having both hands untied, Apple experimented freely with materials, from factors, screen resolution, graphics, colors etc. in order to get that appreciation from consumers. During this time on the other side, PC makers who kept pumping the same design for more than a decade tried to make a breakthrough first with netbooks but Microsoft said tsk, tsk, get back in line! Now they came up with ultrabooks but at two to three times the price of regular older laptops they bring nothing in terms of design. Apple has clearly shown that consumers are willing to pay more if they perceive some value in the product they purchase and, yes, differentiating yourself from the vast mass of PC users seems to confer some value, at least according to the money Apple is making.

    One other missed opportunity for HP was the tablet form factor. Toshiba, Samsung, Acer and others decided to give it a serious try. HP and Dell both listening to Microsoft whisper decided to skip this and promptly killed the attempt.

    HP CEO promises more beautiful PCs ? Not going to happen, ever!

  18. Shane Kent

    "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!

  19. Levente Szileszky

    This is what you get if you put a glorified sales/MBA person into the CEO's chair...

    ...stupid, clueless, scary ideas, spoken in public.

    Whitman, who wasted a BILLION dollar on Skype when at eBay, Apotheker who, after spending BILLIONS on buying a company that competes with the firm he was fired from for incompetency, managed to lose almost THIRD of HP's value with ONE stupid comment then topped it off shutting down the recently bought 1.2B ex-Palm divison, the only new, future-oriented division.

    HP is really in a deep shit ever since that scumbag lawyer-board (did I mention Whitman was working for them before they brought her in?) ousted Hurd, the last sane CEO, with false charges... I fear for HP, these scumbag board members are totally, utterly and hopelessly clueless.

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