HP In A Bottle

It was striking how today’s The Wall Street Journal covered Heineken’s attempt to redesign its beer bottle to increase sales on the same page with Hewlett-Packard’s new CEO, and Meg Whitman changes the look of its PCs to increase sales.

Now, there are some similarities between the two businesses. Both have been in business for a long time. Both are in the commodities business (yes, Microsoft Windows drives a commodities business), feeling the pain from the ever-increasing competition encroaching on their space and eating their market share.

Make-up on a pig
I agree with Meg that the look of HP’s PCs is not, and has not been, what makes its buyers proud, and it should give its head designer Sam Lucente (a friend and former neighbor) marching orders to make what is a commodity look like it is not. There is certainly some upside in making a commodity look good and better than the competition. But to suggest that putting make-up on a pig will change it from being a pig is the pacifier. Only a dull corporate board will suck.

Hanging on to pre-post
HP’s future in the PC business is bleak, just as bleak as the macro-economics deployed by the vendor (Microsoft). It depends on for its success. With its founding origin as a true innovator, developing its initial ecosystem of proprietary hardware, software, and services, HP now finds itself overly reliant on a commodities PC business it bulked up on and has only socialistic control alongside its competitors over its future. Stuffed to the gills with executives that have been at the company for way too long, HP’s ability and guts to change macro-economically dies in the arms of those who did not resist the impending commoditization to begin with.

HP’s problems are macro
Macroeconomics is what defined Apple’s success that leaves commodity vendors in the dust. Apple controls its ecosystem completely, delivering its vision for a best-of-breed computing experience a computing greenfield cannot possibly say no to. For HP to compete effectively, it would need to build a more unique, robust, and user-friendly computing experience (akin to the sum-of-all-parts that define BMW’s ultimate driving experience) it owns and can redefine completely. And that kind of change cannot be driven by executives who, by experience, are steeped in operational excellence, and by tenure, favor socialism over product anarchy.

Align resources with needs
HP lacks a product visionary like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, or Larry Ellison to drive a renewable product strategy the public cares about. The ability of HP to redefine the post-PC era and make it swing their way is as limited as Heineken’s ability to brew and sell another type of beer.

Foresight untethered to hindsight
The one opportunity HP should sink its teeth in and aligns with its current resources is defining a cloud computing strategy that all post-PC era devices will heavily rely on in the future.

Disclosure: I advised HP on specific product strategies some ten years back, getting to know the company, its people, and its entrepreneurial acumen from working directly with them. 

The sign of an intelligent nation is its willingness and ability to reinvent itself, upstream. Let’s inspire the world with new rigors of excellence we first and successfully apply to ourselves.

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