HP Plans 'Ecosystems,' Not PCs


Cloud computing has given way to what might be called "cloud branding," i.e., an attempt by tech companies to "own" not just the gadgets consumers use, but the experience around it as well.

Such is the vision of Richard Gerstein, svp, worldwide strategy and marketing for Hewlett-Packard's Personal Systems Group. Gerstein, who joined HP in 2007 after holding marketing posts at Sears, Alberto-Culver and Procter & Gamble, plans to launch a "new vision" for HP's consumer products in the U.S. in 2011. The mission: Changing the way consumers think, feel and connect. It's a tall order for HP, which is best known for reliable hardware, not for innovation on the consumer side. (This is a company that once resold Apple's iPod with an HP logo on the back.)

Gerstein discussed that plan, HP's Palm acquisition and how marketing computers compares to marketing detergent.

Brandweek: So you think there's only room for two to four players in consumer tech right now?
Richard Gerstein: I think there's only a space for two to four [companies] that provide a seamless, multi-device, software-enabled ecosystem, which is what consumers are ultimately looking for.

So, it's HP and who else?
Clearly, Apple today has done the job; they've created that. I think when you go past Apple and HP, it becomes questionable who's next.

When most people think of HP, what do they associate it with?
Within my business, most people think of it as an extremely reliable, well-built computer and I think that's what we're going to focus on, going from an outstanding device with great customer service behind it into a connected ecosystem that transforms your life in terms of the way you think, feel and connect.

Is that something you're going to do via advertising?
I think you'll see in the advertising, I think you'll see it in the in-store experience, I think you'll see it in the design of our products. I think all those things become relevant. We developed this new vision, and from that we developed a marketing mission for a marketing organization. . . . I want people saying "I've gotta have an HP" as opposed to "I chose an HP and it was fine." I want people desiring an HP because the reality is that technology has become a fashion statement, a badge.

Speaking of which, are you going to keep the Palm name?
Clearly, what we've announced is that it will be branded HP. It will be HP computers and phones. We are still working through the role of the Palm name after that.

What about the HP Slate? Why is that not a consumer device?
Microsoft will tell you that Windows Mobile was not designed for a Slate-type product. It's for a mobile device. They're working on a new operating system for a consumer-type device.

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