Hewlett-Packard's Todd Bradley might have missed his calling as a politician. Bradley, executive vice president of HP's printing and personal systems group, clearly lives and breathes his company's products, and it shows in his answers to my questions during a recent phone and email Q&A.
His answers often include highly detailed information - even down to the level of individual product skews - but he uses phrasing that sometimes sounds like scripted HP-speak. I asked Bradley questions about the upcoming HP Windows 8 computers, what printing will be like in the future, and what type of mobile gear we will see from HP in the months ahead, among other things.
Q: What will Windows 8 mean to HP and its customers?
Bradley: Clearly the touch opportunity is significant. We pioneered the touch many years ago built on top of a Microsoft system. HP has a long tradition of innovating in touch interfaces, and it's great to have Microsoft agree and support us. Whether it's a touch interface you use occasionally on a notebook or desktop, or something you use all the time with tablets, we think customers will really be excited.
Q: Thoughts on Microsoft releasing its own Windows Surface tablet?
Bradley: We are confident with our competitive offerings. I'm not going to comment on anybody else's announcements. Microsoft remains a key partner, and the market for tablets is huge. And customers really win when there are lots of choices.
Q: How do you react when people say we're in a post-PC era?
Bradley: Look, it's just wrong. Just think of the decision when your child is going off to college. What's a requirement? A PC. Or you run a business and need your employees to be productive. You need a PC. The size of the global PC business is huge, and I think some people are trying to be dramatic. That said, there is a growing role for tablets, and we will absolutely be a significant force in that space.
Q: HP makes some of the most important hardware for consumers and business. Same goes for the services that you provide. But all the attention is on web services, tablets, and smartphones. Critics say HP has missed the boat on the mobile revolution. Is that fair?
Bradley: Our new hybrid notebook, the ENVY x2, that doubles as a tablet, is one of the first products we've announced that runs Windows 8, and we'll follow it with an enterprise-ready tablet later in the Windows 8 timeframe. This market is still young, and we will be a significant player.
Q: When it comes to having an ARM tablet I've heard mixed reports on what HP is up to. Some headlines have reported that you had an ARM tablet in the works and then decided to kill the project. Can you tell me what's really going on and if you will be coming to market with an ARM-based tablet soon?
Bradley: I don't think those reports are entirely accurate. Our first Windows 8 tablets are going to be on the x86 platform. We are going with Intel and AMD architecture after getting a lot of input from our customers. Our focus is going into the enterprise and creating phenomenal products. That has an enormous amount to do with our decision.
We know and understand the robust and very established ecosystem that x86 applications provides. We see x86 chips delivering one of the best experiences in the short term and near future. We will continue to develop with our partners in the ARM ecosystem. We think that work is very important. But our first tablets will be based on the x86 architecture.
Q: Can you describe how the consumer PC desktop and laptop market has changed just in the past five years and how hard it is to stay on top?
Bradley: Some great changes have emerged over recent years. Thin and light notebooks, like Ultrabooks, and beautiful designs that combine form and function come immediately to mind. We have shown how something you can't do without also can be a style statement.
Audio is an important area for change, too, because today a PC is a vehicle for music, YouTube videos, downloaded media, video chats, online trainings, a whole range of things. Differentiated technology like Beats Audio from HP really helps us give our customers an outstanding experience.
We are very happy with our portfolio and it only gets better with our Windows 8 products. Advances in touch capabilities and what that means for hybrid and tablet designs and features like "instant on" and "always connected" are really meaningful. We need to earn our customers' loyalty every day. And we, along with our channel partners, are committed to it.
Q: What are consumers' computing needs going to be towards the end of the decade?
Bradley: I think there are two really big trends that are going to dominate the market later this decade. First is because of the explosion of new device types - tablets, phones, etc. - that are just in the beginning stages. People will really want to manage their personal collection of devices and clouds. We feel really good about our potential to lead this trend.
The second big area will be security. We build very secure devices for commercial customers today, but they take an IT department to manage to the fullest extent. Making security robust and easy for the consumer will be key in the coming years.
Of course, the trend toward thin, light and beautiful plus supercharged connectivity will continue. NFC is promising, and we're adding it to some PCs in our portfolio. More web-connected devices, like some of our printers today. Great screens using IPS technology, meaning your content is viewable at any angle. Customizable tablets so enterprise verticals can really get exactly what they need.
Q: What do you see as the needs of small- and medium-sized business today and the solutions HP hopes to bring them today?
Bradley: It's a combination of things.
It starts with productivity and how we enable these companies and people to be efficient. That's super important for these people. Clearly security and mobility is important, but I think productivity and value for the money are as important. That's what we focus on for these guys.
Q: And what about actual computing needs for these small businesses?
Bradley: Most small business owners don't really have the luxury of owning a home and work PC. They have one that does double duty all the time. When we think of the Folio X 13 or Spectre XT these are elegant solutions that offer security and manageability. These are the things that they need for their businesses at the same time offer great design and features like Beats Audio that help them enhance their free time.
Q: What's your forecast on mobile printing as more people use smartphones and tablets that are tethered to a printer?
Bradley: When it comes to printing and mobility services, we feel very well positioned. HP introduced the world's first web-enabled printer back in 2009, and we continue to roll out new web-enabled print services to make mobile printing easy. HP was the first to give printers their own ePrint email address so you can print to virtually anywhere, including public print locations; and with the HP ePrint app you essentially have a print button right on your smartphone.
Q: You've talked a lot about printing from smartphones. How popular is printing from a smartphone and do you see it as a growing niche?
Bradley: I don't think we call it a niche. Clearly there is an opportunity there that further enhances the relevance of printing. A lot of work we do is making people more aware of what we offer.
We've seen mostly documents being printed. One cut of the data shows 70 to 30 in favor of documents with the balance being photos. It's a bit opposite of what we traditionally think of home printing. The products are not just for taking pictures but for managing documents as well.
Q: Lexmark just exited the inkjet business in favour of focusing on its laser jet business. What's going on within the inkjet market that would make players such as Lexmark ditch it?
Bradley: I don't think the Lexmark thing says anything about the industry. We are extraordinary excited about our roadmap and what we have to launch.
Q: Do you have a webOS status update? Any licensing deals?
Bradley: HP is executing its plan to deliver an open webOS under a new organization called Gram. HP will make webOS source code available under the Apache License, Version 2.0, and we expect the full source code for open webOS to be available by September.
Todd Bradley is a seven-year veteran of HP and before joining the company he was the chief executive officer of Palm. Before that, Bradley was executive vice president of global operations for Gateway.