What The New HP Must Do to Survive

It's bad enough that "the new HP" is going against my judgment, but when it defies Consumer Reports-well, that may be an even worse sign.

Its bad enough that "the new HP" is going against my judgment, but when it defies Consumer Reports—well, that may be an even worse sign.

Im talking about the first disclosures of which product lines will survive and which will die as HPs and Compaqs mostly parallel portfolios are combined. One announcement said, "The Compaq iPaq Pocket PC ... will be our smart handheld platform. ... Jornada products will be phased out of the market in 2002."

This crossed my desk on the same day as the June Consumer Reports, with its detailed comparison of 20 PDAs (both Palm OS and Pocket PC). One Pocket PC is much like another, unlike the Palm OS space, where theres a much wider range of function, design and price. Even so, the Jornada 560 series edged out the iPaq 3800 series on both hardware (user-replaceable batteries) and software (superior usability aids).

I reached the same conclusion last November, when the Jornada 568 finally offered me enough capability to replace a notebook PC at Comdex. Others have different needs. For example, I just bought my engineer wife a Palm m100 for Mothers Day, all that she wanted for no more than shed want me to spend. But the m100, like my Jornada, lets the owner replace the batteries.

Why do I harp on this issue? For people whose upgrade cycle is driven by "Whats the latest?" a built-in battery is no big deal; theyll be ready for something better before it stops working. But for people who buy what they need and keep it until it dies, an expensive round trip to the factory for something as simple as a new battery is a potential deal breaker—as it should be.

On the larger scale of enterprise hardware, upgrade behavior is likewise evolving toward demand-pull rather than technology-push. Costs of replacing what works are starting to outweigh associated improvements. Our eWeek Corporate Partners are talking more about taming their management costs than about unleashing The Next Big Thing. Bought any Itaniums lately?

The new HP had better be looking at the customer of tomorrow, instead of the product successes of the past.

Tell me what you want from HP at peter_coffee@ziffdavis.com.