back to article HP: PC industry has forgotten how to innovate

HP told a meeting of dealers and distributors today that the PC industry has itself to blame for a lack of growth over the last five years due to a paucity of innovation. Eric Cador, Senior Vice President and General Manager, EMEA for HP, took to the stage at the Canalys Channels Forum in Barcelona to lift the sheets on the …


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  1. Mage Silver badge


    Duh, it's either a clamshell rectangle with screen and keyboard or a box that a screen & keyboard plugs into.

    If it is portable it shouldn't be too heavy and the big innovation would be 8 hours + life instead of approximately 3 to 4 we have had for ten years.

    The screen and keyboard shouldn't be shiny.

    The keyboard should not get jammed with hair and crumbs.

    It should be reliable and fast enough (1/10th second response worst case to any action).

    It should have all the I/O required and spaced such that something in one aperture doesn't block the neighbour.

    Stuff like ultra thin, alloy casing, carbon fibre, funky translucent plastic or what ever is irrelevant unless it is needed for above.

    He is clueless.

    1. cantankerousblogger

      Re: What?

      I bought a w7 i5 v131 laptop from Dell Outlet with a three year warranty for just under £400 inc VAT. I put in an 256GB SSD and increased the memory to 8GB, and for less than £560 in total (£60 less than that, in fact, as I sold the drive for £60) - it does everything you ask for. Fab device, though I'd like the screen resolution to be higher.

      Ultrabook's were massively overpriced and that is why they didn't sell. HP's mistake has been to produce shiny shiny consumer laptops which are as you described or dire grey stuff for three times the price. HP's idea of software innovation has been to discover a new piece of bloatware to install. HP needs to stop expecting Intel and Microsoft to do its thinking for it - else extinction beckons.

    2. P. Lee

      Re: What?

      And it should have a serial port.

  2. Thomas 4

    He's right

    People don't buy the OS. I get mine from the CDs on Linux Format. =P

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: He's right

      So, what you're saying is that you pay for the OS?

      1. Captain Scarlet

        Re: He's right

        :O You don't pay for the internet, stop freeloading off other peoples Wifi!

  3. Colin Millar

    Wow - he's going to design a device that lets you connect other stuff to it - now that's what I call innovation.

    New definition for the glossary

    Innovation = reinventing the wheel

    Oh - and the reason people talk to the CIOs is cos they have all the dosh - or at least all the dosh that the CFO lets them have

    I'll get me jacket

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Simple fact is......

    Most computing tasks people used a PC can now be catered for with a tablet, mobile phone, other small low powered device or now even in your TV. The days of fan whirring, ampere sucking monsters is a declining market.

    1. Darryl

      Re: Simple fact is......

      I think you're confusing 'computing tasks' with 'surfing the web and updating your Facebook status'. Try building a budget spreadsheet for next year, designing a building in CAD, or editing photos and desktop publishing on a tablet.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Simple fact is......

        @ Darryl

        and you are assuming that every wants to compile the latest kernel in a nano second. Most people who use a computer, use it for a trivial task.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @AC 16:06GMT - Re: Simple fact is......

          Are you talking about using a computer at home or at work in a corporate office ?

  5. b166er

    What's he smoking, "consumers buy the product, they don't buy the OS."

    Like WebOS, or HP laptops with Linux on. (or HP laptops where the CPU and GPU are too close together, coupled with a poorly designed thermal dissipation system, resulting in unreliable laptops that cook themselves after 2 years)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    HP has forgotten how to innovate

    there, fixed it for you.

    1. Giles Jones Gold badge

      Re: HP has forgotten how to innovate

      I'd say much of the PC industry has never innovated.

      Look at your first desktop machine versus a current model. Different ports, LCD screen and obviously different RAM, HDD and other buses. But it is still more or less the same.

      The tablet is the first big jump in form factor and technology in a long time. But the problem is we want things to be large enough to be usable., so the obvious next step (wrist based computing) isn't going to happen.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: HP has forgotten how to innovate

        Even the tablet form factor isn't really that big a jump forward. Acer were making the little tablets years ago. The problem was they were crap. Anyone remember the old O2 XDA, and apple have the cheek to sue anyone for idea borrowing!

  7. James 132

    He misses the most important thing - quality and good design. You don't need some hideous swivelling laptop-phone-toaster-tablet thing; just simple, well-built designs with - and this is really, really important - an OS that is emphatically *not* bundled with a multitude of OEM rubbish that does nothing but harm the user's enjoyment. Reputation sells.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "an OS that is emphatically *not* bundled with a multitude of OEM rubbish that does nothing but harm the user's enjoyment. Reputation sells."

      Well said, sir. That is the only real flaw with my S3, the crapware. If it were bare Android like my N7, it'd be a better device.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Innovate - at what level?

    What's wrong with the way that we've been working? There have been many innovations at different levels. What's wrong with two times faster? That's what we've been doing with the wheel all these years.

    What's he going to do ... give us all square wheels and tell us that this is what we have to work with because ... it's innovative?

    The IT path is littered with many devices that didn't make it. He's just upset that a few other providers managed to take the wheel in to the next sleek looking car and stole all the sales from under his feet ... OK, I'll admit that said car will probably have a problem finding its way to the destination and if you grip the steering wheel in slightly the wrong way then you might have communication problems with the other drivers on the road ... but ...

    We've got innovation. Flash drives. Optical data transfer that will soon be in the home. CRT's replaced with flat screens; and more.

    Please ... don't give us square wheels just becuase you feel that you have to come up with something different. And don't overlook evolution in your race to innovate.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Innovate - at what level?

      What he means is innovation that the media can understand, get starry about and go "ooooh, go buy it, even though it will be 4 generations before its got all the features that the slightly bigger one has".

    2. spiny norman

      Re: Innovate - at what level?

      Remember the Austin Allegro and the square steering wheel? A fine example of innovation for the sake of it.

  9. Lockwood

    No innovation possible

    The can be no innovation in this sector now.

    Given the insanely wide patents out there, designers are stifled with "This breaches XYZ's patent for having a metal box with wires sticking in to it"

  10. Anonymous Coward 101
    Thumb Up

    He's right

    With the notable exception of the Netbook (which consumers loved for being cheap), there has been no innovation in the PC industry for ages. The Ultrabook thing was just about taking a mid-spec laptop and then adding brushed aluminium and a big price tag, to universal consumer indifference. I can't blame Microsoft for designing their own hardware with the Surface. If PC makers want to make more than beige boxes, they actually have to try.

    1. Anonymous Coward 15

      The netbook wasn't all that new an idea.

      1. kevin biswas
        Thumb Up

        Re: The netbook wasn't all that new an idea.

        True. But the innovation was to make it half the cost of a full-size notebook instead of triple the cost. I bought the first 7" eeeeepc the moment it became available as I had been lusting for a libretto for years beforehand but couldn't afford one.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The netbook wasn't all that new an idea.

          there is a colleague here beside me in this meeting who is using his 7" eeepc right now

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The netbook wasn't all that new an idea.

            I bet he's called Simon

      2. Davidoff

        Re: The Libretto wasn't all that new an idea.

        But actually neither Libretto nor Portfolio are in the same category as Netbooks, since none of them have been designed for the low cost market (especially the Librettos were really expensive) but ultra portability..

      3. strum

        Re: The netbook wasn't all that new an idea.

        Libretto - wonderful machine. Still got mine.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    This looks like another "The Personal Computer Just Got More Personal" campaign from HP. Basically, I agree with everything he said but I don't believe any company so closely tied to MS is going to do anything about it.

  12. geoffbeaumont

    Ah yes, innovation...

    "This included devices where the screen could detach to operate as a Windows 8 tablet."

    And how exactly is that different from a tablet which you can plug in to a keyboard to turn it into a small laptop? Those seem to sell like hot cakes...

  13. WorkingFromHome

    PCs and notebooks look the same as five years ago

    But isn't this basically because the existing designs work? Just like the bicycle, people tweek it and make it lighter/faster/better but the basic design stays the same because it is already what it needs to be...

  14. TangD

    CIOs and tablets

    I can't comment for everywhere but if he's targeting CIOs he might be out of luck. Here we are planing a very small targeted roll out of corporate devices to replace blackberry (as that time comes) and will support BYOD for users who are not critical (thing the regulated part of our industry and senior exec who also require regulator tracked access). Our IT group will NOT pick the next tablet/phone used in our business. We likely will pick the system that provides the dual personas and security/encryption but we will provide it on what ever device a critical mass of our employees need. Right now we are doing iOS (think the demographic that this was offered to initialy) but will likely support Android as the startups solve the security headaches and we can deploy the tech. We will support Windows 8 tablets if the demand is there but if HP want windows 8 tablets in our corporation (65k people worldwide) they have to sell to consumers not CIOs

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: CIOs and tablets

      Oh, you *have* to be management.

  15. spiny norman

    I really don't understand PC designers. For example, having innovated the USB port, a compact and universal connection, why make laptops with only 2 or 3 of them, and sell external USB hubs that don't support a whole load of peripherals you might want to connect to them. If space is a problem, why not use the mini or micro USBs used on phones? Maybe there's a reason, but it seems daft to me.

  16. LordWilmore


    I was in Currys the other day looking at ovens, and the missus wandered over to the computers on the way out. She saw the ultrabooks and went "ooooh", and then she looked to the left and saw the iPads and walked over there instead. There are two markets here: shiny things and things for actually doing work. Black and Decker still seem to be doing alright out of selling screwdrivers and hammers.

    1. Arctic fox

      Re: Sigh

      Funny you should say that. Madame Arctic Fox routinely ignores both iPads/MBAs and the current crop of Ultrabooks - no sign of "oooh aaaah shiney" rubbish from her at any time. Heads straight for the kit she considers to be genuinely worthwhile - strangely enough. Knew there was at least one good reason why I married her (well there were and are several others but this is a tech thread) - :P

      1. LordWilmore

        Re: Sigh

        I suppose I must be much shinier than you! ;-)

        1. Arctic fox

          Re: " I suppose I must be much shinier than you! ;-)"

          I think that you would have to consult La Señora as far as that is concerned - modesty forbids that I respond, you understand. ;-).

    2. Richard Plinston

      Re: Sigh

      > Black and Decker still seem to be doing alright out of selling screwdrivers and hammers.

      And Dell are doing really well with their bicycles and skateboards.

  17. b166er

    'Heads straight for the kit she considers to be genuinely worthwhile'

    Not made by Hitachi by any chance?

    1. Arctic fox

      @b166er "Not made by Hitachi by any chance?"

      No, actually I was referring to what we might ourselves regard as interesting tech - just not Apple's version or any of the lookalikes.

      1. Piro Silver badge

        Re: @b166er "Not made by Hitachi by any chance?"

        He was making an erotic joke, if that painfully needed pointing out.

  18. LordHighFixer

    Not far off the mark...

    But I would say there has been no real innovation in computing in the last 30+ years. My first computer I rarely saw, but I could talk to it via an ASR33 connected via a leased line, or via dialup. There was a room I go go into with fancy screens and printers and plotters and make it do fancy dancing. If I sat an AM radio next to it I could even make it play stairway to heaven. And the best part, it had blinkin' lights ;)

    Eliza, hunt the wumpus, adventure, good times...

    My Second computer was a box the size of a desk, did the same things, with the added advantage of causing personal injury if I didn't watch where I was walking. Plus star trek, oregon trail, zork..

    Now, my "personal computer" is a half rack of 4U units in a closet, multiple flat panel displays, laptops, networks and the like. Great for watching tv on, but no actual new functionality....

    Thinner, smaller, faster, not really that impressive if you cant take advantage of it. I long for the 64K mindset of days gone by when we actually thought that computers as powerful as the ones we have now would actually be useful.

    Now someone please tell me how farcebook and twater has made the world a better place so I can go cry in a corner....

    1. chairman_of_the_bored

      Re: Not far off the mark...

      "Eliza, hunt the wumpus, adventure, good times..."

      Aahh... the wumpus... and Colossal Cavern... maze of little twisty passages... good times indeed (and a glorious waste of my EE department's VAX 11/780)

      Skyrim on a high-spec Xeon workstation has nothing on that, except that the workstation cost a minute fraction of the VAX 11/780.

  19. John Savard

    What Do Consumers Buy?

    They may not "buy the OS", but that's only because they're not having to choose between different operating systems.

    A computer, however powerful it may be, that doesn't run software written to run under Windows is, effectively, to most consumers, just about useless. So alternatives - whether the Eee PC from Asus that ran Ubuntu Linux, or even machines that ran Microsoft's own Windows CE - fall flat in the market, unless they're in form factors where a Windows PC simply is not to be expected (i.e. smartphones).

    Maybe Android will make its way up from the tablet to overthrow Windows; the fact that Windows 8 is concentrating on the tablet at the expense of the desktop (which makes sense from Microsoft's perspective - they own the desktop, they have to out-compete where there is competition) will lead to some disgruntlement from computer users - but it appears they have no place to run.

    Except maybe to the Macintosh - and Apple seems to take advantage of its monopoly position in an even worse fashion than Microsoft.

    If there were five competing operating systems of about equal market power - i.e., say the Amiga and the Atari ST were still in there kicking, and so was, say, OS/2 - the desktop and laptop consumer would have clout.

  20. Christian Berger

    Quite simple problem

    Business users mostly want to keep running their 1990s software, that's why they need hardware which is compatible with it. So no innovation wanted here. Consumers want to have what they have seen on advertisements and product placement. So no innovation wanted here.

    In the past you had companies like Grid which made something which hadn't existed back then. They made stuff because it seemed cool. Today, in order to get a company to invest into something, you need to prove that it's already on the market and selling well. There would be lots of ideas for computing devices which haven't been done yet, or haven't been properly in the last decade or so.

    If anybody would ask me to suggest one idea, it would be a "normal PC" inside a Nokia Communicator case which would run just about any operating system you want. If x86 would be impossible, it should have some form of hardware discovery so any OS can find out what hardware there is.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The reason why the form factor of laptops and desktops hasn't changed is because they are functional. Form follows function as the great architects say.

    Having keyboards where the keys have corners with rounded edges is what amounts to innovation for the PC market, because everything else is already perfect.

    Someone else already mentioned it, but battery life should be what they are looking at. I'd gladly go back to the 50 lb, 3 inch thick laptops if the battery lasted a week. Should be feasible, but it won't be "stylish" and the mac retards won't be tempted to buy one.

  22. daveeff

    one size doesn't fit all

    If I have a computer in the lounge or that I carry around a bit of style is good and it doesn't do much but surf and a bit of WP. The one I use for serious work needs lots of oomph & I don't care what it looks like.

    Manufacturers want to "reduce the SKU's", but they could be selling me 2 devices.

    The whole BYO is b*llocks - if I'd have said can I bring in my TV & typewriter because it looks like the VT100 I use at work I wouldn't have got far.

  23. P. Lee

    Innovation is possible

    How about a cpu which can mostly power down or switch to a low power core to run a desktop in file-server mode with graphics off and just enough power to run disks and network? You could run your main disk access through an onboard ARM mini-server and present disk to host and network as iscsi.

    You could have a monitor which does dual vertical A4 pages at a reasonable size.

    You could put a tablet OS in monitors.

    You could put voip/dect in your screens which doesn't need a full pc to work.

    Hi-def, long (100m) range optical video links for PC-TV integration / Lightpeak.


  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'd agree - no (little) innovation

    Sadly, what I mostly read in the above posts is people saying that because THEY can't think of anything that's wrong with the current typical computer, then there's no need for innovation.

    But that's a lack of imagination and a blind acceptance of the status quo. Where I'd argue that HP's comments are somewhat misplaced is by pointing back at statements they themselves made... which is that innovative hardware typically needs innovative software which typically requires support from the operating system (software). So HP producing an "innovative" PC is going to be constrained unless the whole infrastructure also supports whatever that innovation is.

    As one poster above mentions, what about innovation in power consumption? Skype aside, the integration with telephony has a long way to go. What about greater standardisation - what about interchangeable batteries, why don't all computers have hot-swap drives, why can't we have hot-swap memory? It has been (somewhat unsuccessfully) done in the past, but where's the (easy) ability to unplug a small disk drive from my PC at work, slot it into my laptop for use on the train and then put it into my PC at home - with all the O/S etc. on that drive (not talking about just using a USB device to save my documents and share it around multiple PCs all with their own setup, customisation, etc.)? Why aren't PC's controlling my central heating, my house security, my TVs, DAB radio?

    Much of all of that is possible right now... but it needs further innovation and particularly in the area of creating the standards, Plus support from more than just the hardware makers.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: I'd agree - no (little) innovation

      Sadly, what I mostly read in the above posts is people saying that because THEY can't think of anything that's wrong with the current typical computer, then there's no need for innovation.

      But that's a lack of imagination and a blind acceptance of the status quo.

      What a load of rot. The converse is simply valuing innovation for its own sake, which is no better an argument, and indeed arguably worse, since it exchanges a situation that can be evaluated with one that cannot be.

      I, and I expect everyone else here, am perfectly capable of imagining all sorts of "innovations" for personal computers. That doesn't mean I find any of them desirable. And dismissing Cador's empty complaint about a lack of innovation is neither an endorsement of the status quo nor blind: it's simply a refusal to consider change a good-in-itself, and it's based on a wealth of experience with change in the PC industry and elsewhere.

      Nothing on your list is particularly innovative, by the way; it's all been done before, as you admit. If any of it is desirable[1], what's needed is incremental improvement. Certainly it's possible that something radically new could be done in one of those areas, but there's no reason to believe a priori that there's a significant chance of that, or that the result would be particularly valuable to a significant part of the market.

      [1] None of it interests me much, frankly - which is not to say it's not of interest to anyone, but it's certainly not of interest to everyone. And some of it, particularly the home-automation stuff, I think is a terrible idea.

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