Apparently HP’s CEO, Meg Whitman, has admitted that their laptops are lacking in the design department. The company’s goal is to improve their products by “learning from Apple”. What I hope, though, is that HP learns something, but doesn’t simply duplicate Apple’s laptop design. A few have tried this so far (a lot of the current crop of ultrabooks are clearly trying to imitate the MacBook Air, rather than trying to find their own design language). HP has some classic industrial design in their heritage, and I would like to see them draw on that, and not just build “yet another super-slim aluminum notebook”.
HP does also have some history with Compaq product, but except for perhaps the iPaq PDA’s, most Compaq machines looked rather plain (or just downright ugly) in my mind. HP, however, had some very tasteful designs in their history. Granted, HP tended to rely a lot on brown, bronze and gray (witness their original calculators from the 1980’s). But many of those products, particularly the calculators, had designs which were both elegant and purposeful. I still wish I had hung on to my old HP-41CX. It wasn’t just that it was a good, solid piece of technology. I think it was also a good-looking piece of technology. It was iconic, and you knew instantly what it was.
I hope that HP can bring their own style to notebook and portable computing design. I really hope they don’t simply try to make a “thing” that looks like a MacBook, but just with a few minor differences. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Apple designs. But I want to see some variety, not a sea of aluminum slabs. Here’s hoping that HP can, and will, do that.