Is Apotheker's quest for "coolness" the spark that HP needs?

Is Apotheker's quest for "coolness" the spark that HP needs?

Summary: When it comes to being a leader in the tech industry, how important is the "coolness" factor? Clearly, the iPhone and the iPad are cool products, therefore making Apple a cool company.

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TOPICS: Hewlett-Packard, CXO
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When it comes to being a leader in the tech industry, how important is the "coolness" factor? Clearly, the iPhone and the iPad are cool products, therefore making Apple a cool company. Android's coolness factor is also on the rise - scoring a few extra points on the coolness scale for Google, as well.

But can HP - an old school tech company right up there with IBM - score some coolness points to drive its popularity among consumers? New CEO Leo Apotheker is pretty sure it can. And to do so, the company is getting ready to generate some buzz with a news event - a la the Apple news events - next month to unveil the work it's done on WebOS, the mobile operating system it scored with its acquisition of Palm.

In an interview with the BBC, Apotheker - former CEO of the ultra cool SAP - said that the days of making an announcement about an upcoming product and then losing that excitement because the product won't ship until months later are over. He told the BBC:

HP will stop making announcements for stuff it doesn't have. When HP makes announcements, it will be getting ready to ship. That's a simple management decision, I don't need to re-engineer the tanker [HP] to do that.

The products being announced on Feb. 9 are expected to go on sale within weeks. We've seen Apple announce those sort of releases with some of its products - but if HP really wanted to be cool, those products would be in stores on the day of the announcement, not weeks later.

Also: Does HP have the right strategy to take on the iPad and Android tablets?

But maybe that's too much to ask. Cool companies make the faithful customers camp out in line overnight to get their hands on the new product. Will anyone do that for an HP/Palm product? That may be a lot to expect of a consumer market that largely equates HP with the PC they use at work and the printer they use at home. Those products are important - but they're not cool breakthrough products like the iPod was.

For what it's worth, I was actually impressed with what Palm was doing with WebOS when HP acquired it. The PalmPre had a nice user interface, though I wasn't a huge fan of the hardware itself. And with the resources available to HP, I wondered if some of Palm's consumer success could mix with HP's solid reputation to turn it into a real contender in this space.

But then there was turmoil and drama at HP - the resignation of CEO Mark Hurd, the battle with Oracle over Apotheker and the SAP trial and now a major shakeup on the board of directors. And while all of that was going on, Apple and Google continued to grow their mobile platforms, RIM grabbed some attention with the announcement of the Playbook and even Microsoft managed to launch the new Windows Phone 7.

For some time, the face of HP was just a bunch of lawyers fighting those fights. Now that the attention is shifting to the Feb. 9 announcement, the question that the BBC rightfully asks is: Is Leo Apotheker the right guy to sell HP's coolness?

In the interview, he recognizes that he's not a tech guy or a hardware guy and hasn't been in touch much with consumers. But he does have a sales background - and now, his job is to sell HP. He said:

People change, people learn... I'm now much better educated about the consumer market... My job is to pull it all together and make sure the right people do the right job at the right time. Nobody in the world could be fully across everything that a company with a range like Hewlett Packard does.

In just a couple of weeks, we'll see if Apotheker has what it takes to showcase HP as one of the cool kids on the playground - or just another wannabe.

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Topics: Hewlett-Packard, CXO

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19 comments
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  • Coolness is not something you strive for

    If a vendor produces innovative products that people really like, then coolness comes as a matter of course. Attempts by vendors to achieve coolness by means of advertising and public relations tend to backfire.<br><br>It's kind of like the difference between sports teams that win because they focus on excellence, and those that simply focus on winning.
    John L. Ries
    • Could not disagree more. You have to figure out what kind of products

      people will think are cool, and go after it like Apple did. Now, of course trying to achieve it through advertising only, THAT will not work. Just through a colorful streamlined case will also NOT work.
      DonnieBoy
    • Exactly.

      @John L. Ries <br>This whole thing reminds me of Dell a few years ago when they announced they where looking to become as cool as Apple. They held a massive corporate strategy meeting, released the Adamo laptop and announced that they are now cool.<br><br>Rule #1: Once you announce that coolness is your aspiration...your not cool anymore.
      Tigertank
      • The problem was that the Adamo was, in the end, just a boooring Windows box

        with souped up x86 processors.
        DonnieBoy
  • HP

    First of all they need to get rid of names like PAVILION!! webOS could also use a better name. Also, less products, think about it, Apple has very few items on their store...
    Hasam1991
    • Well, just changing the name will not fix it either. Legacy Windows 7 boxes

      are going to be very boooooring no matter what you do.
      DonnieBoy
      • RE: Is Apotheker's quest for

        @DonnieBoy
        What is the issue? Anyway you don't own a computer, so how does it matter to you?
        Ram U
      • Rama.net: The topic is can HP be cool and specifically if the name

        "Pavilion" was a problem. I wager the problem was it was just another boring legacy Windows box.
        DonnieBoy
  • The Competition is Not Just Apple

    As a matter of fact, for many Apple is not an option they're looking at. In many spaces, HP competes with Dell, Asus, Acer, Lexmark, Kodak... Why shouldn't HP manage to be cooler than them if they put their mind to it?
    dunraven
    • RE: Is Apotheker's quest for

      @dunraven
      They also compete with Microsoft in the Smartphone area.
      Ram U
  • No.

    No.
    james347
  • Apple's coolness is vertical integration

    iPod and iPhone were not only cool from a hardware perspective, but never forget the integration behind the gadgets: iTunes and Apple's tie-ins to the media business and now apps business.

    Apple became dominant in the music marketing and sales business with no warning. They started from ground zero, not having any previous foothold at all. They did the same thing with iPhone and the apps business. I wager they will be one of the largest software vendors by volume and revenue before it's all over.

    Can HP do something similar? I don't think so. They have to play middle of the road, and middle of the road is NOT cool or sexy. Steve Jobs essentially bet the company on iPod, iPhone and iTunes, and he won bigtime. Nobody at HP has the juice to gamble even one quarter's profit numbers much less the future of the company. HP tablet will fail just like other lukewarm HP consumer products like their TV's, cellphones, cameras, and MP3 players. Does anybody even remember that HP was reduced to selling rebadged iPods? It was a humiliating and expensive failure, both in terms of money and reputation.
    terry flores
  • RE: Is Apotheker's quest for

    WTH, is the computer industry now like the fashion industry? Where "coolness" not innovation rules sales?
    surfasb
  • RE: Is Apotheker's quest for

    Look at Leo Apotheker. You think he knows cool? HP never was and never will be ?cool.?? The company needs to build quality machines at a good price. End of story.
    lukeweber
  • RE: Is Apotheker's quest for

    Apotheker has the credentials to make this happen. Steal ideas from Apple and then bungle the theft, just as he did with Tomorrow Now and SAP.
    youngwinston
  • RE: Is Apotheker's quest for

    I agree with comments above. Look at HP?s new board members ? a bunch of corporate retreads. That?s about as cool as Paul Anka.
    turbineb
  • RE: Is Apotheker's quest for

    Steve Jobs essentially bet the company on iPod, iPhone and iTunes, and he won bigtime. Nobody at HP has the juice to gamble even one quarter's profit numbers much less the future of the company.<a href="http://sazkove-kancelaree.cz">sazkove tipy</a>
    marco5811
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