HP No Longer Building PCs for IT Approval

HP's ElitePad in its new retail jacket

HP’s ElitePad in its new retail jacket

The latest member of the old guard of the PC world to shift in the face of consumerization and BYOD, HP said Monday that the new major design goal for its PC business is “to be desirable and cool.”

Speaking at the company’s Discover 2013 customer and partner event in Las Vegas, Enrique Lores, senior vice president and GM for business PCs at HP, called the shift a significant change in the way HP approaches building computers for business.

“Until now, our major goal was to be approved by the IT department, but this is not the route to success in the new world,” Lores said. “We want users to request – to demand – HP products because they are cool, because they look good.”

A big part of that effort will be reaching “more customers through multiple formats, multiple operating systems, and multiple architectures,” said Todd Bradley, executive vice president of HP’s Printing and Personal Systems business.

The company provided an example of such a new format at Discover – introducing a point-of-sale jacket of its ElitePad tablet computer that includes a barcode scanner, a credit card reader, and additional battery life over the stock tablet. The idea is one familiar to anyone who’s ventured into an Apple Store in the last two years – every staff member is able to complete transactions from wherever they are on the store floor through their mobile device. It’s a model that HP sees taking ten to 15 percent of the retail market in short order, said Ray Carlin, vice president and general manager of HP’s Retail Solutions Business Unit.

The PC business may be struggling, but Adam Shaffer, senior vice president of marketing at El Segundo, Calif.-based PCM said it’s still a going concern, putting the “PC is dead” talk down to an effort by the press to get people talking.

“We’re selling more desktops than ever, we’re selling more client devices than ever,” Shaffer said.

However, IDC did call the first quarter of 2013 the worst three months of PC sales in recorded history, and much of the industry is looking for a way to turn it around. HP, like many of its peers, is counting on next year’s end-of-support milestone for the venerable Windows XP platform encouraging many businesses to update their PC fleets. In fact, Lores said that within the next few months, the company will start a broad “Goodbye XP, Hello HP” campaign to encourage both customers and the channel community to choose HP gear running Windows 7 or  8 as its replacement for long-in-the-tooth XP systems. “We want to be Microsoft’s preferred partner in this transition,” Lores said.

While the company isn’t sharing details of the yet-to-launch program as yet, Dan Forlenza, vice president and general manager for commercial PCs, said the effort with the channel will be “much more than just a marketing campaign,” suggesting that promos and other incentives will likely be included to capitalize on what HP clearly sees as a window of opportunity to take share.

At the same time as HP is talking up the user-centric design points, there are signs that it’s not abandoning its longtime allies in the IT department entirely. Even if they aren’t setting the device agenda nearly as much as they were before, they still represent the whole business for the guys down the hall from HP’s PPS group in its Enterprise Business group. And they have to live with the fashion-driven choices of their users. So the discussion of consumer-style design is tempered by discussions of security, manageability and services wrapped around the devices. Finding the right balance of meeting the style eye of the fickle end user in the moment and the long-term concerns of IT around owning, managing, and securing endpoint devices and the networks they access may prove to be a significant differentiator for HP and its PC-building peers as they seek share in a rapidly-changing PC market, and whoever best negotiates that balance has a good chance to grow their business, assuming of course, that PCM’s Shaffer is correct, and that the PC is not dead.