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Editorial: HP's Restructuring of VoodooPC

By - Source: Tom's Hardware | B 23 comments

It’s becoming an increasingly familiar story in the PC world: Behemoth manufacturer (Dell, HP) snaps up boutique vendor (Alienware, VoodooPC) in an effort to spice up the behemoth’s staid image—and to compete with hipster Apple.

Then the rumors start: The boutique vendor is a) losing its soul or b) is going to be consumed into the bigger brand and disappear. I contacted HP spokesperson Ann Finnie about rumor “b” this morning. She gave me this response, which she said Rahul Sood, VoodooPC founder and Chief Technology Office of HP’s Voodoo Business Unit, had dictated to her yesterday (dictation being necessary, according to Finnie, because Sood had a cycling accident over the weekend and broke his hand):

“HP is working on a plan to better leverage its existing resources to bring Voodoo products to market faster and make them more accessible to consumers”

If Sood actually said that, he sounds like a very different person from the one who, reflecting on Dell’s acquisition of Alienware, wrote this in his blog on March 22, 2006:

“Alienware is widely considered to be the volume leader in gaming, they have scale. To me scale isn’t as important as “customer experience,” but time will tell if I’m right. I have not for a second ever considered dumping our price in order to compete head to head with Dell like our competition has. I believe the Voodoo brand is all about the experience, and as a result we keep adding more value to our experience–and we will continue to do so regardless if this happens.”

I emailed Sood directly asking some additional questions about what’s happening at Voodoo, but have not yet received a reply (I’ll update this post if I do). But the quote that Finnie gave me sounds like code for a plan to shut down VoodooPC’s Canadian manufacturing operations and incorporate them into HP’s much larger operations in Asia as a means of cutting costs, achieving scale, and competing with Dell on price.

VoodooPC might never have had to do that, but it’s no longer a company, it’s an HP brand; as such, it must compete with Dell. The question is, can it do that and still deliver the customer experience that Sood credits for the company’s success?

And then there are VoodooPC’s employees to consider. It’s very likely that the semi-skilled folks will be getting pink slips, while the key employees responsible for designing the high-end systems VoodooPC has long been known for will be retained.

It’s always unfortunate when someone loses their job, but HP didn’t buy VoodooPC for their manufacturing operations. And while it’s also true that all of VoodooPC’s employees contributed to the company’s success, the people who designed last year’s Blackbird 002 desktop rig and this year’s carbon-fiber Envy 133 deserve a much larger share of the credit than those who screwed the machines together.

That’s a harsh assessment, but it’s true.

As for what what will to happen with VoodooPC in the long run, I think change is inevitable, but the Voodoo brand will survive—soul intact—as long as HP continues to let them do what they do best: Design innovative PCs that aren’t necessarily targeted at the masses.

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  • 5 Hide
    ravenware , September 23, 2008 7:23 PM
    Quote:
    “HP is working on a plan to better leverage its existing resources to bring Voodoo products to market faster and make them more accessible to consumers”


    Translated as: "We at HP feel that quantity will always come before quality. Why have nice $3000 when you could have a piece of shit for $1500?"
  • 0 Hide
    The_Blood_Raven , September 23, 2008 7:25 PM
    ^ Exactly
  • 9 Hide
    ravenware , September 23, 2008 7:30 PM
    Quote:
    It’s always unfortunate when someone loses their job, but HP didn’t buy VoodooPC for their manufacturing operations. And while it’s also true that all of VoodooPC’s employees contributed to the company’s success, the people who designed last year’s Blackbird http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackbird 002 desktop rig and this year’s carbon-fiber http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_fiber Envy 133 deserve a much larger share of the credit than those who screwed the machines together.

    That’s a harsh assessment, but it’s true.


    You need a good smack in the head. The people who put the machines together may not be as important as the designer but their more important than you apparently realize. If the above statement were actually true then the products made or assembled in China and Mexico wouldn't be recognized as the poor quality pieces of shit that they truly are.
  • Display all 23 comments.
  • 1 Hide
    theLaminator , September 23, 2008 9:21 PM
    ^ +1
  • 0 Hide
    klondack , September 23, 2008 9:30 PM
    As a former HP employee for 20+ years. I can tell you HP does not give a crap about "their" high-end PCs. They want to reduce headcount so they look good to wall street. HP is not calling the shots. Never has since Compaq bought out HP. That was the biggest cover-up in corp history. After the "merger" more HP'ers where laid off than Compaq employees. All the HP infastructure was changed to reflect the way Compaq did things. I just wish Voodoo would have never sold out to Compaq.
  • 5 Hide
    havo , September 23, 2008 10:51 PM
    So by your argument since you do not do the "Most Important" job at Tom's you should be fired, as a "semi skilled" writer, and they should hire someone a lot cheaper.


    This is the exact type of stupid idea that has killed many an American company. It is exactly the "Semi Skilled" employees that make Voodoo different than HP. You put any system by "people who designed last year’s Blackbird 002 desktop rig and this year’s carbon-fiber Envy 133" and build it in the same high volume mass produced minimum QA environment that HP uses for their PCS up against a hand built system using high end of the shelf parts and your "People" will get smashed flat, spit on, buried, and have a condo built on them.
  • 0 Hide
    one-shot , September 23, 2008 11:12 PM
    Corporate America...what can you do?
  • 3 Hide
    megamanx00 , September 23, 2008 11:21 PM
    I don't know that I care much, I build my own PCs.
  • -4 Hide
    Luscious , September 24, 2008 1:44 AM
    I have a simple solution for HP. Just put a 9800M GTS in your new HDX18 laptop and people will buy.
  • 1 Hide
    Theydrick , September 24, 2008 8:13 AM
    First of all, as long as there are "industry standard" components, everyone selling you any brand of PC is the same - they just throw together different packages, but from the same pool of parts. The only innovations are the cases, and while I think the Blackbird is at least the "prettiest", the only selling point to consider is the extra time that the system integrators (those "semi-skilled" guys) put in to making everything INSIDE look neat and orderly.

    Case design and the quality of integration and wiring are the only things that differentiate any PC manufacturing company, and maybe a proprietary BIOS, or componant "certification".

    Yes it's sad that people will probably get laid off, but that's the nature of things when we're progressing more and more towards technology making the human element in any process unnecessary.

    Maybe we're all wrong and Voodoo will take over the world like Microsoft once did... who knows?
  • 2 Hide
    kitsilencer , September 24, 2008 9:14 AM
    What boutique manufacturers can give you that you can't get from building yourself is aesthetic: neat cabling, custom artwork, automotive paint, etc.

    Most of the people who regularly comment or post on this site would never dream of buying from Voodoo or Alienware. The premium is exorbitant. These people make GREAT computers, but at jacked up prices. Meanwhile, Dell, HP et al. make crap computers at jacked up prices. To make the pc literally PERSONAL, it makes so much more sense to build it yourself.
  • 1 Hide
    Acethechosenone , September 24, 2008 10:02 AM
    I agree but the custom paintwork offered by Vodoo is pretty awesome,and I feel it is more about the aesthetics and service then the actual PC itself. You could build an awesome PC and even do the cabling yourself but if something goes wrong you know that you have to diagnose it yourself. So I guess what these companies are offering is peace of mind.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , September 24, 2008 1:21 PM
    Voodoo Omen is the best looking PC I have seen so far and the inside design and the assembly executions blows everybody else out of the water. Unfortunately, HP will not allow this kind of "excessive" attention to detail to continue.
  • 1 Hide
    ailgatrat , September 24, 2008 2:17 PM
    Quote:
    And then there are VoodooPC’s employees to consider. It’s very likely that the semi-skilled folks will be getting pink slips, while the key employees responsible for designing the high-end systems VoodooPC has long been known for will be retained.


    I guess Rahul better make sure he is still involved in design of these systems or he may also find himself unemployed along with all other redundant positions there at Voodoo. Eh?
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , September 24, 2008 4:56 PM
    Voodoo was dead when they were bought out. If you speak with one of the reps they steer you to Blackbird and virtually refuse to talk about anything Voodoo brand. Try it yourself.
  • 2 Hide
    Evolution2001 , September 24, 2008 6:43 PM
    klondackAs a former HP employee for 20+ years. I can tell you HP does not give a crap about "their" high-end PCs. They want to reduce headcount so they look good to wall street. HP is not calling the shots. Never has since Compaq bought out HP. That was the biggest cover-up in corp history. After the "merger" more HP'ers where laid off than Compaq employees. All the HP infastructure was changed to reflect the way Compaq did things. I just wish Voodoo would have never sold out to Compaq.

    Well, I have a slightly different viewpoint from you. I'm a current employee of HP and I have been for over 9 years now, which was pre-Compaq buyout. I'm not sure if you were HP or Compaq or DEC before your departure, but I can tell you that just about every single person below the NA Ops people wishes they still ran things like Compaq. Compaq was very good to their employees. HP now? Big thumbs down. All that aside... I do agree that HP is going to integrate (re: whack) the Voodoo brand sooner or later. Mark Hurd ("CEO") chops headcount where ever he can. Look at the current EDS takeover. Just about the entire North American EDS employee base is being let go. Only the EMEA people are being kept. And yes, I highly doubt that HP cares much about high end gaming rigs. That's not where the money is. (Even if they sold 2000 per year, which they don't, that's not even on the radar.) The money comes in expanded business services and expendables (re: printer ink). The corporate environment of HP is no different than any other company. All that matters is the bottom line that gets reported to wall street. If it looks good to cut 100 heads from the payroll, the upper mgmt will do. Period. HP can take any in-house group and assimilate the Voodoo group into it. And then it'll slowly be taken out of service.

    The following is just my guess and in no way any type of official statement...
    IF Voodoo was as big as Compaq was, they'd keep the name around. Notice, you can still buy Compaq laptops and desktops how many years after the merger? But Voodoo wasn't that big. I don't expect Voodoo to remain for very long. If it does, it will only be in name. If this Sood guy isn't a slave to the money (few aren't), then he'll likely leave on his own and start up a new venture.
    HP has very little reason to get in on the gaming market. They bought up Voodoo when Dell bought up Alienware. Dell was the big PC vendor on the block. HP felt the need to compete. But Dell has sinced learned what HP already knew and has changed course. Dell is now in the services providing business as well. I expect Dell to still push their gaming rigs more and longer than HP because Dell already had a better home user presence and rapport with home users. HP didn't and isn't going to go to great lengths to focus on areas that don't generate enormous revenue.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , September 24, 2008 8:25 PM
    You guys are arguing whether or not the screws get turned in the US or China as if it makes a difference? Wake up, the much harder components to make, ie the video cards and motherboards, etc, are mostly made in Taiwan, China, S. Korea, etc. Keep this in mind, CyberPower and Ibuypower are made here in the Good Ole' USA! /sarcasm
  • 2 Hide
    ravenware , September 24, 2008 8:33 PM
    Quote:
    I highly doubt that HP cares much about high end gaming rigs. That's not where the money is. (Even if they sold 2000 per year, which they don't, that's not even on the radar.)


    Then why acquire Voodoo in the first place?

    And their attitude towards Gaming rigs would explain the low sales numbers.

    If you do not respect or recognize the products that you manufacture or sell, then no one will buy them. This is actually the same problem that a lot of retail outlets have with selling enthusiast hardware and PC games.
  • 2 Hide
    Evolution2001 , September 24, 2008 8:51 PM
    ravenware

    More guessing on my part:
    I'd guess that it was a low-risk investment for HP. "Maybe Dell is on to something, as they have a pretty good track record with home users." So HP bought up Voodoo on a hedge that boutique rigs might pay off in some capacity. It's not, IMHO. Thus, "Well, it was a low-risk bet that didn't pay off. No long term harm in 86'ing it. Lesson learned."
  • -1 Hide
    captaincharisma , September 24, 2008 9:12 PM
    Quote:
    You could build an awesome PC and even do the cabling yourself but if something goes wrong you know that you have to diagnose it yourself. So I guess what these companies are offering is peace of mind.



    LOL yea and look what HP and Dell`s tech support is. nothing but a bunch of monkeys who barely or haven`t used a computer looking at pre-typed instructions for only a handfull of problems and can`t speak english
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