Can HP Envy x2 Beat Apple MacBook Air, iPad Design?
Read between the lines, and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) seems to be positioning VP of Design Stacy Wolff (left) as the company’s answer to Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) Senior VP of Industrial Design Jonathan Ive (right). But can Wolff and HP really match (and perhaps leapfrog) Apple’s MacBook Air, iMac and iPad designs? Or is he simply implementing many basic design practices that rival Lenovo already leverages on ThinkPads and IdeaPads? Perhaps HP’s Envy x2 (a hybrid tablet-laptop that runs Windows 8) will provide answers.
The Wall Street Journal today wrote a long — but pretty elementary — feature story about HP’s PC and laptop design woes. When CEO Meg Whitman arrived at the company about a year ago she received a “brick” of a notebook — big, clunky and out of touch with sleeker models across the PC and Mac industry.
HP, the Journal reported, has since recognized its shortcomings, reorganized and nearly doubled the size of its PC design team. Among the changes Wolff and the HP team implemented, according to The Journal:
- There will now be a standardized logo size and location on all PCs.
- The power-on button and power jack will now be in the same place on all HP laptops.
- HP is now using a common color pallet across its PCs and notebooks.
Radical improvements? Hardly. Those are basic design concepts that Lenovo often leverages, as does Apple. And Lenovo — not Apple — is the company that may leapfrog HP’s PC market share really soon.
Still, let’s give HP some credit here. The Wall Street Journal was writing for a mainstream business audience. The example design improvements therefore had to be easily explained. Surely, Wolff and the HP team have some technical surprises up their sleeves that will wow the IT channel and HP customers.
Regardless, the big challenge for HP is cultural rather than product-related. At Apple, the designers typically rule the discussion. That is, Apple engineers need to deliver products that fit the design — with a little bit of wiggle room, of course. At most other PC vendors, the technical specs (speeds and feeds) rule the discussion and design is the final part of the discussion.
Whether HP’s Wolff can make design a primary discussion within the halls of Hewlett-Packard remains to be seen. But most eyes are now on the Envy x2, a forthcoming tablet-laptop hybrid that runs Windows 8. Pricing has yet to be announced. But Microsoft has confirmed Oct. 25 as Windows 8’s launch date. You can bet the Envy x2 will surface right around that time.
The VAR Guy wonders: Will HP CEO Meg Whitman trade in her “brick” laptop for the Envy 2? Hmmm…