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HP revamps product branding as Windows 8 looms

Hewlett-Packard is embarking on a major branding shakeup that spans its entire product portfolio, including desktop and laptop PCs, displays, and printers, that coincides with Microsoft's official release of Windows 8 later this month.

"We are aligning the overall HP product portfolio to new branding guidelines/buckets," HP informed PCMag by email recently.

An HP spokesperson said the new product segmentation "pre-dates Windows 8. However, the company is releasing a number of new PC and "hybrid" tablet products that run Microsoft's next-generation operating system and appear to carry the new branding.

For desktops, laptops, and laptop-tablet hybrids like the Envy x2, HP said it will now have four tiers of branding: products labelled HP and Compaq will be at the value end, moving up through Pavilion, Envy, and finally Spectre as the premium brand. Those four segments cover "everyday computing, create and entertain, and prestige," the spokesperson said.

Deron Kershaw, an analyst with Gap Intelligence, said it appeared as if HP is replacing the well-known Pavilion brand with Envy as its mainstream workhorse brand for PCs. That process will begin to go into effect "starting with new Windows 8 notebooks in a couple weeks," the analyst said.

"I expect the Pavilion brand to continue to be attached to their entry-level g series laptops, but it looks like Envy will now be used on the mainstream 'dm' and 'dv' lines, which currently represent over a third of their retail models," Kershaw said, adding that HP plans to "phase out the HP 2000 branding for low-end models in favor of Pavilion G."

Gap Intelligence is now alerting its own channel clients to the branding shakeup as it affects HP laptops with a visual chart (click image below right to enlarge).

An HP spokesperson quibbled slightly with Kershaw's analysis, saying their view was that rather than a transition from Pavilion to Envy, "I would say there is more of a transition from Envy to Spectre." But the HP rep did concede that "Pavilion will be even more mass volume-oriented" going forward, which appears to line up with the analyst's take.

Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst for Moor Insights & Strategy, said a better demarcation of HP product brands should help the company, provided it sticks to its guns on the new segmentation.

"Smart companies tier their brands and sub-brands to cater to specific and different audiences. The trouble many companies get into is that there is too much overlap between brands and they end up standing for nothing," Moorhead said.

"The good thing about what HP is doing is that both their high end brands have some equity and are separate from the older or corporate brands. HP now needs to manage the brands with an iron fist and deliver in their promises."

But for analyst Jack Gold of J. Gold Associates, HP's effort had the look of rearranging deckchairs, if not on the Titanic, than on a corporate ship that's had trouble finding and sticking to a heading in recent years.

"Their naming and products are so complex no one really can figure it all out," Gold said, adding that the branding shakeup is "is way beyond what most consumers will want to deal with or have patience for."

With the release of Windows 8, HP will have a chance to "take some leadership if they do it right," the analyst said, though it was his opinion that Lenovo was the current favourite to get out of the gates fastest with Microsoft's next software platform.

"HP has a bigger problem than just complexity. Once thought of as a leadership brand, it is now being seen as a 'me-too' commodity brand, which is the same problem Dell has. So they need to re-energise the brand somehow, not just change the buckets," Gold said.