HP's Todd Bradley: Surface is no competition to us
Todd Bradley, the head of HP's PC business, does not view Microsoft's Surface tablet as a challenge.
"I'd hardly call Surface competition," Bradley said in an interview with CITEworld. He listed several reasons, "One, very limited distribution. It tends to be slow and a little kludgey as you use it .... It's expensive. Holistically, the press has made a bigger deal out of Surface than what the world has chosen to believe."
Bradley joined HP in 2005 after being the CEO of PalmOne, and was the leader of its PC and device business through 2011. That business has faced countless challenges in the consumer space over the last year, including the quick abandonment of its homegrown tablet, the TouchPad, and the accompanying Palm phone business, and a brief flirtation with abandoning PCs altogether. CEO Meg Whitman quickly put an end to the uncertainty when she took over for Leo Apotheker late last fall, and gave Bradley more responsibility, handing him HP's highly profitable printer business as well. He's now overseeing business areas that make up about 50 percent of the company's revenue.
His first goal: convince enterprise customers that HP is still serious about personal computers. "We continue to work very hard to overcome the confidence problems that created with our customers," he said. "Communication and execution, that's what we're focused on."
Tablets for the enterprise are a big part of that vision. "The Elite Pad is built for the enterprise; it's built on a 16:10 aspect ratio screen so you can view a whole page as opposed to format through a page. It's focused on backward compatibility of applications, it's focused on the ability to open it and service it, as opposed to return it. At the same time, you clearly have the ability to download Netflix or whatever your favorite app is. We've gone much from a different perspective from that then let's load it up at a retailer."
But making a pure consumer tablet that employees will bring to work -- like the iPad -- is not a big focus right now. For HP, BYOD can wait.
"We're not entering the consumer tablet fray any time soon. We'll be doing something next year, but you won't see a consumer tablet from HP before Christmas. You'll see convertibles that are focused on how you use the device, keyboard, clamshell."
He continues, "Whether we go into tablets – there's a whole litany of ARM-based Android, ARM-based Microsoft, there's quite a grid. We'll be judicious about how we deploy against application availability in the enterprise, consumerization, and price points."
He's also wary about getting back into the phone business. "We've been in the phone business. It's exceptionally challenging in North America. We have to be in the personal devices business, the personal systems business. There are a number of ways of how are you going to be in the phone business, whether we partner or build, none of that stuff we've decided about."
So how does HP get back to its top spot, which was recently usurped by Lenovo? Bradley says "It all boils down to China if you want to go to number one." And there, a lot of consumers are still interested in traditional desktop PCs.
"The usage models as you look at these emerging markets, as excited as we are going to get about ultra-mobile, the billion people in rural China still want PCs that have DVD players in them. It's all about usage."
Which gets us back to Microsoft. Bradley thinks that Windows 8 will be fine for some customers, and that there's a place for touch screens in a lot of cases. But he doesn't think they're going to take over the entire PC market any time soon.
"It's a question of pricing, how do you get a broad set of touch products with prices that are relevant? Microsoft has clearly tried to dictate to customers what they need. If you look at retail orders, what we built with touch related to Windows 8, touch is a small percentage of that. It's a price point issue, it's a go to market issue, it's an orientation issue."
A transcript of our entire conversation, lightly edited for clarity, follows after the break:
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