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Caught in a Catch-22

HP’s new CEO, Leo Apotheker, recently said that he wants the company to be perceived as cool. In his own words, he said “I hope one day people will say 'this is as cool as HP’, not 'as cool as Apple’.” To do so, he hinted at significant changes.

Unfortunately, being cool is not as easy as making changes to your product line-up. Being cool reflects one’s social status and place in the social hierarchy, and the problem is that social hierarchies are often hard to break. Anyone who has ever been to school can attest to that.

Often, there’s a very clear distinction between the cool students and the not-so-cool ones - you can tell immediately during recess. And very rarely do you see someone from the not-so-cool group break rank and join the cool ones. So woe betide those who fall into the not-so-cool ranks, because if they tried to be cool, they will be labeled by others as “trying too hard”, a “wannabe”, or a “poseur”. Simply, you are either cool or you’re not, and worse, the very act of trying to be cool instantly makes you uncool. So in the end, it is a catch-22 situation.

So how can HP become cool then? The way I see it, there’s one way. Wait for Apple to become uncool. That doesn’t usually happen, but screw ups can happen along the way and poor judgements do get made. Take Tom Cruise for example, he was one of Hollywood’s biggest and hottest properties, but his popularity when on the decline especially after the Oprah Winfrey Show incident where he jumped on the couch and began professing his love for his then new girlfriend Katie Holmes. Big mistake.

However, this shows that it is possible for Apple to one day to become uncool. Perhaps Jobs would go nuts at one of his presentations? Declare that iPhones will ditch iOS and run Windows Phone 7 instead, who knows? Certainly no one expected Tom Cruise to act the way he did. And when that happens, that’s the time for HP to strike.

Kenny Yeo / Senior Technology Writer

An analog man trapped in a digital world, Kenny prefers mechanical to quartz watches, buying from brick and mortar shops as opposed to online shopping and eschews fancy dual-clutch cars for good ol' stick shift ones.

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