What’s Next for HP (written 9/22/11)

It may seem that HP is dead in the water. With their discontinuation of WebOS, and spin off of their PC business, things look grim for the once hugely influential company. So what’s next for the tech giant? As it happens, the decision to spin off their PC branch and separate their consumer efforts from their server and business efforts is the closest thing to a new beginning any company ever gets in this industry. Here are some suggestions for the newly spun off consumer branch of HP.

  1. A new name: There is nothing exciting about the name HP. Over the years it has built up brand recognition, but HP now has the chance to be fresh and new again. The spun off consumer division of HP should strongly consider a new name fit for a new age and be ready to brand and market themselves vigorously. Something catchy like “Macrocomp”, “Pomegranate”, or “Avogadro”. I’m willing to sell them HewPaq for a very competitive price.
  2. Fewer products, less confusion: Be honest, which is more memorable: the HP G42-240US, or the MacBook Air? One thing HP has done poorly along with most other PC OEMs is that they have created too many products and product lines. Furthermore, their efforts at branding and cross branding become so complicated and muddled the names become irrelevant. Compare to Apple. They have 3 and only 3 laptop lines: the MacBook Air, the MacBook Pro, and the MacBook. Everyone knows those lines and what each one is. HP should spend a lot of time thinking about a few product lines and what they want each to really represent. Then they need to choose good names and diligently market them.
  3. Keep innovating in consumer space: With HP dropping WebOS devices, it is unclear if they are done in the phone and tablet market or not. HP had big plans for WebOS including having it installed on all of their computers by 2012 (in parallel with Windows). Just because things with WebOS didn’t pan out doesn’t mean they can afford to give up on some of the most hot and relevant consumer trends. HP should keep making phones. It would be to their advantage to create a few sleek Windows Phone and Android handsets. HP also can keep competing in the tablet market by making Android and Windows tablets (especially when Windows 8 launches).
  4. Move faster and don’t give up: If I were to choose a single word to describe what led to HPs stumble, it would be “stagnation”. HP found a place where they were comfortable. They manufactured great laptops and PCs and found success in both the consumer and business market. However, even with their efforts with phones and tablets, they never felt like a bold and innovative company. With their consumer branch being spun off, they will have an opportunity to regain agility they known in years. It’s prudent that they use this opportunity to be bold and take risks, be resilient and relentless in improving their products, as well as quickly recover from any mistakes.

Though HP is clearly facing some uncertain times, their future doesn’t have to be bleak. It’s not often a company of the stature of HP makes such a bold move and creates such an opportunity to reinvent themselves. Once upon a time, a Cupertino based company faced uncertain times. Many thought it was only a matter of time before it would be gone forever. However, that company reached for the stars and eventually became the most valuable tech company in the world. The tech world is a fickle and chaotic place and it’s no crazier to believe that by 2025 HP will be the most influential tech company in the world than it would be to believe that Apple could pick up the pieces of their company and continue to change the world back in 1997.

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