HP CEO Whitman: ‘Apple taught us that design really matters’

“When Meg Whitman took over as chief executive of Hewlett-Packard Co. a year ago, she got a company-issued laptop,” Ben Worthen reports for The Wall Street Journal. “‘They gave me a brick,’ she said, referring to the device’s weight and chunky appearance.”

“That’s an assessment of H-P’s products that Ms. Whitman is working to change, starting with a new line of personal computers due out in time for the holidays. Meanwhile, she has pledged to defend her company’s standing as the world’s largest PC maker by volume, which it is on the brink of losing to Lenovo Group Ltd.,” Worthen reports. “As part of her plan, Ms. Whitman is counting on better-looking PCs, hoping her company might one day rival Apple Inc. as the industry’s standard bearer for sleek design. ‘I don’t think we kept up with the innovation,’ said the 56-year-old CEO. ‘The whole market has moved to something that is more beautiful.'”

Worthen reports, “H-P has reorganized and nearly doubled the size of its PC design team to 60 people and has opened two new design centers. In January, the company appointed a longtime employee to oversee the design group and is establishing guidelines for the look and feel of future devices… [Whitman] assigned longtime PC executive Stacy Wolff to come up with a common look and feel for all its products. His mission was to craft computers that were instantly recognizable as H-Ps. Mr. Wolff centralized H-P’s design efforts and added new members to his team. Mr. Wolff and his group quickly settled on a standard logo size and location on the company’s PCs and decided to put the on-button and power jack in the same place on all H-P laptops. He also introduced a common color pallet for use across all the company’s product lines, which had sometimes borne competing shades of the same color.”

“‘We’re working on a cleaner, more minimalistic look,’ he said,” Worthen reports. “Even with all the changes, Ms. Whitman says she knows that it could be a few years before consumers recognize an H-P PC when they see one. ‘Apple taught us that design really matters,’ she said. ‘I think we’ve made a lot of progress.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Watch Whitman’s HP.

Sure the stuff looks Apple derivative (HP has appropriated more than their fair share of Jony Ive’s work) and they’re still saddled with the weight OSes not of their own making. Yes, their hardware and software cannot compete with Apple, but it sure can or will soon be able to compete with the likes of Dell et al. It’s rather amazing that it took this long to get someone in there who could recognize that inconsistency of design across a company’s product lines is death.

Bottom line: Not everything she tries will work and the economy is working against her, but overall, Whitman gets it.

Maybe one of these days, HP will even fulfill their marketing slogan and, after decades of malaise, actually begin to invent again.

Related articles:
HP CEO Whitman takes aim at the enterprise smartphone market – September 17, 2012
HP ‘Bender’ Android smartphone surfaces in online benchmarks – September 17, 2012
HP CEO Whitman: ‘We have to ultimately offer a smartphone and get it right this time’ – September 14, 2012
HP blatantly copies Apple’s iMac, Keyboard, and Magic Trackpad designs – September 10, 2012
Apple is killing Dell and Hewlett-Packard – August 6, 2012
HP ‘designer’ on HP’s MacBook Air clone: ‘Apple may like to think they own silver, but they don’t’ – May 9, 2012

47 Comments

    1. @BenWorthen’s article. “They gave [her] a brick [for a laptop], when she took over HP a year ago”

      Jeez. The entry level cheapo student models are very heavy. The rather expensive professional models tend to be much lighter (and faster).

      They were so cheap as to give her an entry level HP laptop.

    2. I do too. Some of us, much like the Steves, were born in and from HP. HP is the “grandfather” of Silicon Valley. It has earned and deserves respect and admiration.

      It’s idiot from the top which broke things and it’s about time HP gets back on their feet and walk again, amongst the gods.

      Think about it. The HP Envy was an experiment that proved what Witman speeks.

    1. a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Business School. Whitman served as an executive in The Walt Disney Company where she was vice president of strategic planning throughout the 1980s. In the 1990s, she served as an executive for DreamWorks, Procter & Gamble, and Hasbro. Whitman served as president and chief executive officer of eBay from 1998 to 2008. During her ten years with the company, she oversaw expansion from 30 employees and $4 million in annual revenue to more than 15,000 employees and $8 billion in annual revenue.

      She ran for ONE political office. Hardly a “hack” as you rudely, and so ignorantly, label her.

      1. And yet the best ideas that has come from her since taking over HP have been:
        (a) fast follower in the footsteps of Samsung – she’s even copying Samsung’s strategy of copying Apple for Christ’s sake,
        (b) abandon webOS to the open community for the dogs to rip apart rather than keeping it in house and using that as a launchpad for future products,
        (c) announcing vaporware like a smartphone to compete with Apple in the enterprise market, much like Microsoft has done with WP8, integrating it with the Exchange backend, MS Surface anyone?
        (d) making redundant 29,000 employees.

        If these are the only ideas she has for turning HP around, I suggest the first redundancy is culled from the CEO’s office.

        1. Look, I don’t really think one way or another about Meg Whitman. But if you are going to comment about her, at least do it with some clarity. Meg Whitman ran for Governor of CA and lost. She never gained the opportunity “to attempt to run my state”.

          1. its funny how Meg Whitman just ran for election of the governer of california and people say she was terrible! Look who is at the helm right now! Governer moonbeam sucked as a governer back in the 1970’s. He sucked as a mayor of Oakland, and now still sucks as a governer of Calufornia. I do not know if Meg Whitman could have improved the state if she got elected because of the leftist state legislature, she would have had an uphill battle like Arnold did. I just see how people pile on Meg Whitman because of her run for the governership. If you are an ex HP employee i have no beef if you want to criticise the way she is running HP.

            1. “He sucked as a mayor of Oakland’
              I live in Oakland – this is simply not true.

              “and now still sucks as a governer of Calufornia.” [sic]
              Also not true. California is doing just fine, and Jerry Brown has been a HUGE part of that recovery.

      2. I wasn’t making a judgement on her work at H-P. I simply bristle at Internet commenters blithely tossing at insults, especially when they are so obviously misapplied.

        As for H-P, I feel sorry for anyone going into that cluster fck.

        1. And here I thought I was the only one here with that attitude about insults, stupid forays into OT political rants on both sides, and general ad hominem attacks on other commenters.

          Thanks Spark for speaking up. I’m hardly a Whitman admirer but you’ve summarized her prior accomplishments quite well.

      3. Those school produce many fools who live on the reputation of their degree. I remember as the first time I met a room full of Ivy League students as an undergraduate at a smallish, generic state school. What a come down that was.

  1. Whitman: Start with the quality of components first!
    Let your computers don’t fail in 3 months. That will save you tons of money in warranty.
    Then… Oh, Forget it!

    Shit happens, many times®

    1. And electronic measuring equipment before that. Expensive, but HiQ. Where have I heard this before?… But they gave up doing that, as if the stuff was no longer needed. True, sticking to equipment that HAM and discrete component electronics entusiasts needed, couldn’t last forever, but that is what R&D is for.

      1. We have an HP-11C that was used and abused for more than 10 years in a doctor’s office, and it still works like a champ.

        Texas Instruments built a competitor to the HP-35 (HP’s first handheld calculator), and it (TI SR-50) was of the cheapest build. The keys wobbled around while the keys of the -35 had a positive feel to them and didn’t wobble one bit. Yes, the -35 was pricey – I’m remembering it being in the neighborhood of $400 in 1973 – but it was worth it.

        I used to associate HP with the highest quality products . . . until we bought an HP all-in-one printer, scanner, copier about ten years ago. It was nothing but trouble from the get-go. We once spent more than eight hours on the phone with HP support in India, that ended with us getting a replacement printer, which exhibited the exact same issues within weeks. At that point, we gave up and found a different printer from some other company.

  2. May I suggest that one the first things they do is get rid of all the gaudy stickers regarding Windows, Intel, etc. Those things immediately screw up the looks of anything they are stuck on.

    1. You can join the underground movement of folks who hover around the computer sections at Fry’s, Best Buy, etc and surreptitiously remove all those “badges of dishonor” from the demo laptops. I’ve seen many with not only the Windows and intel badges, but also Nvidia Graphics, a Norton Safety sticker, a Blu-ray badge, some QA outfit’s sticker with a green checkmark, something called Corsair, Gigabyte Technology, a “USB-3 Ready” sticker – holy crap, what a mess.

  3. Good to hear that HP are trying to raise the quality of their products. Apple is influencing them in a good way.

    However, Apple doesn’t talk about changes, they do them. This is the difference between a leader and a follower.

    You don’t hear about Apple saying they are going to make a better iPhone. Aside from the rumors the first time you hear about it is a the product release.

    How long will it take HP to come up with new designs? And will they really stay the course or change their mind a year later. WebOS was a good example. If they have stuck with it and also not released it half baked they could have had a serious competitor.

  4. There was an interesting section in Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography about the day Jobs went to Apple HQ to tell the board he was resigning as CEO. Someone gleefully told Jobs about some recent sales reports indicating that HP was continuing to circle the drain. But the news didn’t please him. Jobs grew circumspect and, perhaps thinking of the future of Apple, reflected on the extent to which the great company founded by Bill Hewlett (someone Jobs spoke with when he was young) and Dave Packard had been run into the ground. It was an interesting moment.

  5. Whitman’s a GOP office seeker, so she gets a free pass from MDN. And HP lesdership has a long history of GOP support. So MDN Is someone that wishes they were a party hack looking out for a wannabe party hack.

    Pretty pathetic.

  6. While I want to see American companies grow strong and not fade away, this has train wreck written all over it. Sorry MDN, Whitman might know a bad thing when she sees it, but as far as good goes, she most definitely doesn’t ‘get it’

    Your short article summary ended for me, and killed any chance that I would follow the full article link when I read she was doubling the size, and making the design dept 60 people. Good design DOES NOT come from a committee. The ore people, the more generic and plain vanilla ick the design. (No offense to vanilla)

    Another important and overlooked statement, she tasked a long time employee/ executive Stacy Wolff to oversee the design dept. Unless Wolff is a designer (I doubt it) this is epic fail. Long time executive means what, bean counter, marketer, HR manager? The blurb sounds right, the details are all wrong.

    1. This is why she needs a younger design staff who can clue her in. At her 56 years of age and cloistered in the corporate world it doesn’t tend to put you in touch with the popular culture (look at Steve Ballmer). Jobs was rare in that he always had a youthful outlook plus a great staff who shared his vision and could fill in whatever Jobs himself was missing. The moment Meg looks at this HP stuff as mere products she’s lost. It has to be more than that and mean something now.

      1. Exactly. Jobs had a mission to change peoples lives with his products.. To make life easier and shape the way we do things. He paved the way to success by showing people that simplicity is key. He is also targeting the average consumer.. which is the largest group to target. I do hope Apple will still think of the professionals when making their decisions. Their numbers aren’t as high as the average people.. but they are the ones that held the company together in the early days.

    2. Agreed. The phrase “designed by committee” is a synonym for disaster. Great design decisions are not made by committees or focus groups. They’re made by a few men who share a vision, I.e. Jobs and Ive.

  7. I may not like that HP is copying Apple with some products, but I *do* like that HP is willing to admit they are “following” Apple. Admission. That’s a good start. Perhaps after a few copies (ugh), they can take what they learned and branch on their own.

    Samsung, otoh, won’t admit to copying anything and only changed as court rulings have come into effect.

  8. We ALL, everyone of us, want technology to move forward; some say faster…so Go HP.

    HP has already announced that its roughly decade long pursuit of basic improvements for non-volatile memory with the memristor will start shipping in less than 1 year. These are aimed at replacing SSDs, Flash memory, DRAM SRAM, etc. and then inside CMOS chips.

    If other companies didn’t push the state of the art, IBM would rule the computing world today. You would still be loving those black screens with green characters on them & DOS commands.

    HPs researchers and engineers have produced great innovations and inventions in the past and Meg knows it and is committed to harnessing their talents in ways to make a difference. I applaud her efforts, in spite of never owning an HP PC.

    I’ve owned lots of calculators from the HP45 onward and must say I still use a software version of the HP41CX on my MacBook Pro. It works and runs programs just like the original hardware, except it is only $20-30.

    I also use Windows 7 natively on my MBPro as some programs simply don’t run on emulators or run too slow.

    I want to use whatever is the best for my job so I get my work done the fastest. I admire a lot of hardware, but I won’t waste time with something that is not right for the job.

    HP has shown it can do a great job and I wish them well. Their efforts will keep Apple on its toes, too.

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