Hewlett-Packard Taps Fashion for R & D: A long-term innovation strategy?

Posted by: Reena Jana on September 14, 2009

This weekend, Hewlett-Packard proved that it is committed to tapping the design world as a rich resource for technical innovation, and not merely aesthetics. On Saturday night in New York, the PC maker sponsored the runway show of fashion designer Vivienne Tam. Last year, she designed a stunning, deep-red netbook for HP, which she had sent down the runway as well in models’ arms, as a substitution for clutch purses. On Saturday, her models strutted with a new HP netbook, this time in a subtle gold color and emblazoned with softly hued butteflies that looked like they were hand-painted, but were mass-produced using a new manufacturing technique that Tam helped HP’s engineers and supply chain staff develop. The project proves that the fashion world can serve as an intriguing source of R & D ideas for tech companies. Here’s a look at the device, which won’t hit stores until Spring 2010:

VTdigital clutch Spring 2010.jpg

I met Tam and Satjiv S. Chahil, HP's senior VP in charge of worldwide marketing for the Personal Systems Group, a few days before the debut of the new netbook. Tam admitted that she had set the bar high for herself with last year's richly hued netbook, which also featured an intricate design of multi-colored peony flowers and a lipstick red keyboard. "What could I do to follow up?" she said. "The new computer can be 'worn' with everything." In other words, she designed with the concept of the PC as a vital accessory and tool for women; making it more "wearable" could appeal to more people.

The first edition, HP says, has sold out. The company won't release production numbers, but will treat the Tam-designed netbooks as true fashion items. This means that they will be available for only a certain amount of time. The strategies behind this: one, to push HP to innovate more frequently by tapping Tam's ideas, and two, to create an object that is "coveted," said Chahil.

Chahil also said that the ongoing collaboration with Tam indicates that HP "has established a new lifestyle brand." The netbooks will be sold in Tam's New York boutique as well as high-end, non-technology outlets.

Reader Comments

Patricia

September 15, 2009 2:39 AM

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Joe Remo

September 15, 2009 11:05 AM

Well, it's about time the boring personal computer merges with the designs of the fashion industry. It's about time PC Marketing gets Jazzed Up even more.

Is it a long-term innovation strategy, well duh!
You say the project proves that the fashion world can serve as an intriguing source of R&D ideas for tech companies, well duh! So have many other worlds and so will many more.
The real question is whether HP will succeed, I don't think so. Do you?

I don't think HP gets it. And by the number of comments, I don't think your readers gets it either.
And since you guys are just writing what most people think then your articles are not getting it either.

Where is the real technical innovation in this story?

Your words that the concept of the PC as a vital accessory and tool for women; making it more "wearable" could appeal to more people. That could be news to people who don't get it.

Is HP really establishing a new lifestyle brand? Or can I add HP for the millionth time to the list of "The Missing Digital Experiences".

So far, all I see from HP's collaboration with the fashion world is "aesthetics". Where is the real technical innovation? HP should try doing real CTO or Configure-To-Order with the Fashion World and creating real 3D Fashion Shows without the need for the stupid glasses that everyone hates.

HP needs a long-term strategy because it will take them a long, very long time before they get it. I predict they will finally realize it after their competitor shows them the way.

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What comes next? The Bloomberg Businessweek Innovation and Design blog chronicles new tools for creativity and collaboration, innovation case studies in both the corporate and social sectors, and the new ideas that have the power to change the way things have always been done.

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