A few weeks ago I got bombarded with requests to go to this HP event in San Francisco, they were from a PR firm that I'd worked with on and off in the past. Honestly though, most of these events are a waste of time; they are usually all fluff and designed for a different type of audience. I want to talk to engineers, I want to learn, I don't want to be sold on some mediocre product.

I was going to have Jarred going to the event just to check it out since they were intent on us reviewing the system, but it just so happened that I'd be in the area for meetings at NVIDIA, I told them I'd drop by.

I had no idea what I was seeing, I was dropped off at a weird warehouse looking place in San Fran; surely HP was going to murder me once inside.

Once inside I met up with my PR contacts and they took me on the tour; ah, HP was launching a new PC, so that's why I'm here. It turned out to be not just any PC but the first PC developed by the Voodoo PC team after its acquisition. It's actually the second product since the acquisition (hence the Blackbird 002 moniker) but the 001 got canceled before it made it out the door.

It's pretty tough for me to get excited about a new PC, because honestly the most exciting PC manufacturer these days happens to be Apple. Apple is the only company that's still pouring passion into its designs, which I think is largely responsible for why I find that many of my friends are telling me that they want a Mac for their next computer. These are people who would've never considered a Mac a few years ago, and who mostly don't know anything about OS X, but Apple has done a tremendous job of getting people excited about yet another computer that it seems to rub off.

I met with Rahul Sood, founder of Voodoo PC, for the first time face to face. The first time I ever talked to him on the phone was right before the acquisition was announced, and the second time I talked to him was that evening when he was telling me about the Blackbird 002.

Jarred posted his review today, so check it out if you're interested. The system itself isn't bad, it uses standard ATX components, looks pretty cool (albeit still a little large despite efforts to hide the largeness) and is overall well thought out. Like most of these PCs it is pricey and if you know how to build your own, you're far better off building your own, but these things aren't meant for you or me, they are meant for our friends who we don't want to provide tech support to for the rest of our lives :)

The system isn't bad but what really got me was Rahul's enthusiasm for the product. He words beamed excitement, passion and confidence - and not just in the way that anyone marketing a product attempts to do, this was genuine. I'm real big on passion and doing things that you love doing, and it was clear that the Blackbird made this guy happy; he poured a lot of himself into it and it showed.

I told Rahul that I wanted to see this level of excitement and passion for all HP products, not just a $5K system. I want to see innovation down into the $500 PC and I wanted real competition to things like the iMac and the Mac mini. He said that I should wait and see what they're working on next.

As confident as I am in Rahul's ability to actually bring some innovation to the market, I do think HP has some very hard limits. Fundamentally, HP doesn't control the software stack. Whereas Apple can think of a cool new hardware feature and change the OS to support it, HP must petition Microsoft to support it and in turn Microsoft will probably build some certification program, develop an API and a few years will go by before it ever sees the light of day. I'm not trying to bash MS, it's just a side effect of being such a ridiculously huge company.

I'm worried that even if there was a PC company that could out-design and out-passion Apple, they'd be held back.
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  • Trisped - Monday, October 22, 2007 - link

    You don't have to change an OS to add new functions. True, OSX is smoother, but you can always load extra apps to increase a systems value. I am not talking about that crappy bloat, but things like tool bars or integrated VoIP. If they write them properly, they can actually add to the value of the system, rather than just slowing it down. Reply
  • crimson117 - Monday, September 17, 2007 - link

    quote:

    Whereas Apple can think of a cool new hardware feature and change the OS to support it

    What cool new hardware features has apple introduced that would require OS changes to replicate on a PC?

    Mighty mouse, built-in webcam, speakers, usb ports, wireless, etc would just require drivers / software.

    Maybe the new touchscreen interface for the iPhone / iPod touch would require OS changes to work? Still, drivers/software should be able to do the trick... after all, conceptually it's just mouse gestures on a touchscreen.
    Reply
  • cliffa3 - Thursday, September 13, 2007 - link

    Would love to hear about the NVIDIA meetings...upcoming insider article, picking up hardware to review?

    Lots of speculation and rumors about the fall refresh. Just built a decked out HTPC last night (love the Zalman case)...can't stand not having my 'main' computer my most up to date one, but I also can't see buying something that might be beaten by a much less expensive product in Nov. Any idea if the wait will be rewarded?
    Reply
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