HP and the Future of the Workstation

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HP is the ”comeback king” this decade—in that the firm started out with little chance of success, and that seemed to focus it on a level of execution we rarely see outside of successful startups. Back at the beginning of the decade, calling the company a mess would have been an understatement. But now, just a few years later, the firm is arguably being better-run and far less complex than even Apple, which once set the standard or focus and simplicity.

This week HP launched a new workstation line and one of the offerings was their mini-workstation positioned for the workspaces of the future. Several vendors have tried for an elegant PC and workstation solution that would bridge all-in-ones and mini-workstation/PCs but this latest effort by HP appears to set the bar. Let’s talk about this line and particularly focus on their 6-core Intel Xeon Mini Workstation of the future.

Design: Elitedesk 800 Stands Out

Workstations are about performance, but—unlike PCs where IT gets a vote—in general engineers pick workstations (I personally think all PCs should be chosen by those that use them but, at least right now, workstation users—even in an age of BYOD—stand out as almost rabidly focused on getting what they want). You can’t play this down because while we talk about Millennials often choosing their job partially as a result of the hardware they use, I once worked for a company that had a 200 percent annual engineer turnover rate because they wouldn’t let the engineers use the hardware they wanted to use. The firm—a multi-billion-dollar company—went under.

This suggests appealing to both the performance side and the design side of this equation is incredibly important and HP has a history of doing this well, having even used external design groups in the past for extremely unique and compelling products.

This latest line is a case in point. With black as the dominant color, their Elitedesk 800 G4 Workstation Edition particularly stands out as a sharp blend of lines and utility. It is close to desk art. But it is also incredibly powerful with the most powerful Intel processors, Optane 2 support (for extremely fast disk access speed), full Solidworks and Revit AutoCAD certification, and one of the most popular graphics cards in the segment with an NVIDIA GTX 1080. If you need even more power, you jump to the Z2 tower which adds graphics options up to the extremely powerful NVIDIA Quadro P5000, Thunderbolt support for faster i/o to peripherals, and an additional storage bay likely attractive to video editors.

But, as noted above, the HP Z2 Small Form Factor really stands out in this class.

HP Z2 desktop workstation

Image credit HP

HP Z2 Small Form Factor

The HP Z2 Small Form Factor is not only small, it is relatively attractive. But, what makes it really interesting is how flexible it is. It can stand alone, be mounted under the desk or on a wall, be rack mounted (with 7 devices per tray (5U), 8 trays per 42U Rack, and a whopping 56 devices in that same rack maximum). It also provides workstation class performance, and even has NVIDIA Quadro M620 graphics as an option. This is even a Xeon-class workstation even though it is very small and “whisper” quiet. This is important because often these are used places like on the trading floor where it can quickly sound like a wind tunnel when everyone fires up the 3 or 4 workstations in every cubical not to mention the hundreds that drive the community displays around the room.

The design reminds me a lot of the work HP used to have done in shops like BMW design, as it is really sharp—particularly when the device is attached to it’s preferred monitor, turning both into an all-in-one.

Oh, and this has full certifications including AutoCAD, MicroStation, ARCHICAD, SOLIDWORKS, Revit, Solid Edge, Vectorworks, and Creo.

Overall impressive work.

Wrapping Up

Workstations are sold to a class of worker, engineers, graphics artists, animators, movie editors, designers, and architects who have almost total control over what they get. This should force a better match of attractive design and performance than it often does. HP clearly attended that meeting and with their latest release highlights a powerful blend of performance and aesthetics in what is a surprisingly attractive line. Of course, the one product that really stands out is their Backpack Workstation which I have a little lust for, but that wasn’t refreshed this round.

Focus and execution can create some rather powerful products and this latest HP launch is a case in point. Nice work!

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About Author

As President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, Rob provides regional and global companies with guidance in how to create credible dialogue with the market, target customer needs, create new business opportunities, anticipate technology changes, select vendors and products, and practice zero dollar marketing. For over 20 years Rob has worked for and with companies like Microsoft, HP, IBM, Dell, Toshiba, Gateway, Sony, USAA, Texas Instruments, AMD, Intel, Credit Suisse First Boston, ROLM, and Siemens.

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