HP eyes aspiring gearheads with new PC brand

By the end of the year, HP will unveil a new segment in its PC strategy that targets cost-conscious performance hounds.

SAN FRANCISCO--Hewlett-Packard plans to introduce a new category into its PC lineup, hoping to snag buyers who would like the best but are on a budget.

HP has yet to come up with a name for this strategy but has a clear idea of the kind of buyers it wants to attract, said Phil McKinney, vice president and general manager of HP's gaming business. "These are customers who are going up to the high end, but don't need all that customization," he said.

The announcement came as part of an event designed to highlight since acquiring Voodoo PC last year. Rahul Sood, the founder of Voodoo and now chief technology officer for HP's gaming division, outlined the new strategy. Sood used the analogy of a Mercedes brand when describing the forthcoming segment, sandwiched in between Voodoo as Maybach, HP as Smart (but maybe an Accord is more appropriate), and Compaq as Chrysler.

This is almost precisely the same language that Dell used to unveil its XPS PC brand back in 2005--although it borrowed from the Japanese car market with its "Lexus" strategy. The idea was relatively the same; to go after PC customers who couldn't afford a boutique PC from the likes of Voodoo or Alienware (later acquired by Dell), but who wanted the best performance on their block. Those types of PCs--with high-end components--are more profitable for Dell and HP than their lower-end cousins.

McKinney wouldn't provide many more specifics on the new "Mercedes" strategy, but did say, "We're not going to go off and create a fourth brand." HP currently sells PCs under the Voodoo, Pavilion and Compaq brands.

The new systems will include desktops, notebooks and handhelds, and should be available by the end of 2007, McKinney said.

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