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Editorial: HP's Restructuring of VoodooPC

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.

  • ravenware
    “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?"
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  • The_Blood_Raven
    ^ Exactly
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  • ravenware
    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.
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  • theLaminator
    ^ +1
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  • klondack
    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.
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  • havo
    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.
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  • one-shot
    Corporate America...what can you do?
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  • megamanx00
    I don't know that I care much, I build my own PCs.
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  • Luscious
    I have a simple solution for HP. Just put a 9800M GTS in your new HDX18 laptop and people will buy.
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  • Theydrick
    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?
    Reply