Time to start getting personal with the PC

17 Jul 2008

The senior VP for global marketing with HP’s personal systems group, Satjiv Chahil (pictured), discusses how the computer company came to rethink and redesign the personal computer

HP’s new motto is ‘making the PC personal again’ – how is this being realised?

I joined HP after Mark Hurd (chairman and CEO) and at the time the experts suggested we should get out of this commoditised business. Instead, HP decided ‘let’s play a leadership role in this space’ and that has been the goal of my life – to make technology more accessible and enable it to have more of an impact on people’s lives.

When we started out our introspective, we had a bit of an epiphany! We realised the whole industry had forgotten what it was all about, yet for the people using these products nothing was more personal.

In what way had the PC strayed from being a real item of personal technology?

It had just become a device, a gadget I used as a part of my functioning. Yet while it was attracting and keeping more important things in my life, it did not fit seamlessly in, it was something I had to hide in my home office.

When HP looked into this, it discovered that everyone else was in the same boat. Personal computers were aimed at the consumer from the perspective of what kind of processor it had, how big the hard drive was, what discount you could get. It was all very impersonal – it was all about the specs.

We realised people were more interested in picking out their notebook bag than the notebook itself because it said more about their personality and lifestyle, so we decided to make it personal again and forget what the industry is saying and what the competitors are doing – our anchor should be our customer.

Looking at the status quo, was this a big change?

We did a 180 degree from the industry and many old media friends rang saying ‘Great campaign but how are you going to live up to it?’. I responded by saying that it was not a marketing campaign – it was our raison d’etre, our cause.

How do you go about reinventing or redesigning the standard computer?

We started rethinking design from the perspective of a human being – how it would fit into the living room, the bedroom etc. Even bigger than that, we wanted to look at it from the socially conscious, environmental point of view.

We drew inspiration from all sorts of things like the black gloss finish of a piano – it has been around for hundreds of years and crossed all musical genres. Then we looked at integrating modern trends like blue LED lighting and instant-on interface.

The biggest source of inspiration is looking at the younger generation. Forget surveys, market research and trending – we just got a bunch of young people equipped with video cameras and watched them talk to people and do their thing.

Young people are not just defining today, they are defining tomorrow and that is where HP can really get an understanding of personal technology.

By Marie Boran