It's not often that one's grandma reinvents herself as a nymph. As Alan Deutschman explains in his very readable Change or Die, radical change is a challenging business that favors only the most nimble. But Hewlett-Packard have pulled off a dramatic facelift, going from the greyest company in Silicon Valley to the bluest (and a very refined blue at that) with their newest line of personal computers.
Last week, I was invited down to HP's offices in Cupertino last week for a peep show. I was getting a exclusively early preview of HP's new line of personal computer from the guy in charge of their global marketing, Satjiv Chahil. As Chahil explains in the podcast interview (see/hear above), HP are making PCs personal again by designing them to be seamlessly integrated into the living room. The new range of HP computers -- from the Pavilion s3000 Slimline, a6000 Desktop & m8000 Media Center desktop machines to the HP Pavilion tx1000 Entertainment Notebook to matching 19, 20 and 22-inch monitors -- are designed for real people with real lives in real homes. Geeks in dark cubicles should close your eyes -- I'm afraid there's nothing here for you.
So why me, the techno-sceptical author of the Great Seduction? Why did Chahil -- the legendary marketing plastic surgeon who has orchestrated successful face lifts at Sony, Apple & Palm -- give me an exclusive glimpse of his fabulous new range of PCs? After all, what do I, mr technosceptic, know about computers?
Exactly. I may not be much of an expert on processing power or the size of hard drives, but I sure know a good looking computer when I see one. And Chahil was showing off the sexiest looking computers that I've ever set eyes on. Coming in a piano-black finish with a highly refined silver trim and those blue LED lights, the new HP range looks more like a high-end stereo rig than a traditional PC. What Chahil and his HP design team have done is make the exterior of their PCs as sophisticated as their interiors. These computers won't disgrace the most elegant living room. HP's new range is so stylish that it even makes the Apple iPhone look dull. To see an unadulterated, uncensored video of the HP range, go here (parental permission suggested).
But it's not just the sex appeal that has me lusting after these digital darlings. Beyond their piano-black finish and silver trim and blue LED light accents, these PCs has been designed to be as easy and fun to use as a flat panel television or a home-theater system. We hear that damn word "convergence" all too often here in Silicon Valley. But these devices finally signal the coming together of computers and entertainment centers. As Hartmut Esslinger, the founder of Frog Design and original designer of the Macintosh computer said of HP's new range:
“First, computers entered the personal space based upon function and features. Now, there’s a lot of demand for great design that is integrated into a deeper understanding of real market trends and people’s emotional needs. “HP clearly understands today’s consumer dynamics, and this inspiring line of new products will appeal both to the mind and the heart.”
Or as John Englehart, managing partner of Branded Asset Management Group and a leading thinker about brand building in the digital age, emailed me about the new HP look:
"These days, consumer technology is valuable to the extent that it enables desire. Anyone who doubts that should have a chat with the folks who used to say no one would spend more than a buck for a cup of coffee. In harnessing the power of design with powerful technology, H-P is returning to its fabled garage to make the 'digital home' as desirable as it is functional. More than technology, they're poised to create culture.
So yet, I confess, my technosceptical heart and mind have been seduced. It's spring in Silicon Valley and HP have discovered sex. Grandma has reinvented herself as a nymph. Now all we need is a fiber-to-the-home high speed Internet connection (hint hint -- Verizon) to bring home entertainment nirvana to the Valley.