The Death of the Ugly PC: Apple Inspires HP and Dell

Apple DNA is spreading wide and far, as other PC makers realize they can perk up their beige boredom with Cupertino-style design artistry.
Posted November 14, 2007

Rob Enderle

Rob Enderle

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After years of suggesting the big PC companies learn critical skills from Apple, it is finally happening. Both HP and Dell have been bringing on board ex-Apple employees and implementing policies that set Apple as the benchmark (rather than each other) and the end result will be a better experience from both firms.

But, what I find fascinating is that Dell and HP are going about this completely differently, with little overlap in terms of the groups making the changes. What’s kind of weird is that if you took the Apple practices from Dell and combined them with the Apple practices from HP you’d have, with the exception of Steve Jobs, Apple.

Given the public Steve Jobs, who’s basically a character created by Apple’s advertising agency (in effect, Steve Jobs plays a role in public much like Ronald McDonald, that bears little relationship to his actual personality), you wonder how long it will be before one of these firms creates their own iconic spokesperson.

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Let’s take a look at the wonder of the growing Apple corps in Dell and HP.

HP: Marketing, Service, and Cell Phones

I can’t number the times I’ve suggested that PC companies look at how consumer products are marketed and then emulate those practices when selling Personal Computers. Apple is the only company that has done this for years and is known for having some of the most memorable and successful campaigns in the technology segment. Granted they’ve had long dry periods when their products weren’t competitive, but when you combine great products and great marketing you get amazing results.

HP’s PC division has been taken over by ex-Apple superstars and it shows in their recent execution. While historically if you combined the words “HP” and “Marketing” you’d walk away with the concept of “boring,” currently HP’s programs are anything but, and the dividends (clearly also the result of some very attractive and aggressively-priced products) have been significant. Their Personal Campaign, using celebrities associated with a wide variety of demographics, has been very successful. And if you look at Apple’s new iPhone campaign it is a rough copy of what HP is doing with PCs.

On Service, HP has stopped measuring themselves against Dell and started to focus on Apple instead. The result has been an increase in the satisfaction customers buying HP products have seen. Since this move was an effort started relatively recently you should see very strong improvement in the customer experiences associated with HP. And, when you do, you can look to Apple for the motivation for this. Apple set the bar with regard to eliminating crapware and in providing one of the best out-of-box experiences to their customers and HP is measuring itself now against that.

While the changes aren’t apparent, my last meeting with the HP cell phone unit found it largely driven by ex-Apple employees. So the DNA that created the iPhone is now percolating inside of HP. While the existing line is very similar to what RIM offers, the future will increasingly be a blend of RIM, HP, and Apple, representing the best in enterprise platforms, centralized control, and phone design.

While still more focused on enterprise than consumer products, this Apple DNA promises a future phone that approaches the sexiness of the iPhone with the practicality of a RIM and security and management from HP. Done right this could be a perfect storm product for those of us who have to work from our phones. We’ll see – the earliest we’ll likely see such a device around this time next year.

Next page: Dell: Design and Retail

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Tags: Microsoft, virtualization, iPhone, Dell, HP

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