HP to Embark on New Consumer Focus

Hewlett-Packard on Monday is set to unveil a new product roll-out and branding initiative geared toward the consumer market that it hopes will revitalize the battered IT sector and, more importantly, better integrate its technology like PC, printers, and networks into everyday life.

Dubbed “the largest consumer product roll-out in the company’s history,” the event will serve to tie together various parts of HP consumer business lines including personal systems, printing and imaging. The campaign is expected to incorporate the message of “Radically Simple, Better Together” as a central theme. Internally, HP is referring to the initiative as “Big Bang 2.”

Although specific details are unknown, the product rollout will include more than 100 consumer technology products and solutions “within a variety of lifestyle scenarios that put you at the center of the digital imaging and entertainment experience,” the company said. Top executives scheduled to attend include CEO Carly Fiorina, Vyomesh Joshi, executive vice president of the Imaging and Printing Group, and Duane Zitzner, executive vice president of the Personal Systems Group.

Analysts said that many of the upcoming announcements represent updates to previous families, including lines carried over from HP’s Compaq acquisition, like the Presario line. But over the years, HP has also rolled out products like the Digital Entertainment Center seemingly without an easy-to-comprehend product or technology roadmap.

“HP already has a very strong position in consumer PCs and printing. It sees it has a role in making that whole consumer experience easier and more integrated. One of the things about digital entertainment is it’s not a smooth experience. They want to capitalize on that if they can address the ease of use issue,” said Roger Kay, vice president of client computing at research firm IDC.

Crunch time for HP
The major product marketing push comes at a pivitol time for the Palo Alto, Calif.-based computer giant. For the first time this decade, Dell is on track to eclipse HP in unit shipments in the home PC segment so far this year, according to data compiled by IDC. HP was the top-ranked vendor during the past three years.

But Kay refuted the notion that Monday’s initiative represented any kind of reaction to Dell’s renewed success.

“This is a shift of focus — a tightening in some ways,” he explained.

But while HP moves to fortify its consumer business, the enterprise side remains under attack from competitors like IBM, Sun Microsystems and Unisys. So much so that some analysts believe that HP will have a tough time remaining focused on many fronts.

“The challenge with HP is they want to be so many different things. They want to be competitive with Dell but they also want to keep up with IBM. It’s a challenge for HP because they are playing on so many different fields,” said Charles King, research director at Sageza Group.

In fact, HP’s previous branding campaigns have been primarily focused on the enterprise side of the business. HP has tried remain in step with IBM’s on-demand initiative with strategic initiatives of its own like the Adaptive Enterprise strategy unveiled last spring. At the time, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based computing giant even followed up its “Everything is possible” campaign with a similar “On demand” campaign.

“Frankly, HP has a lot on their plate right now. They’re still recovering from the large meal of Compaq,” King said.

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