PALO ALTO, Calif.--Hewlett-Packard wants to get hip to teens.
At an event here this week focused on teenagers and technology, Ameer Karim, director of HP's future and innovations group for consumer PCs, said that it plans to introduce a new line of devices this fall that will be designed by teens, for teens.
"We've used this teen council to help us with everything from the design of the products, the user interface and the box design, even including how the Web site will look," Karim said on a panel of executives talking about marketing to the younger generation. Representatives from Sun and Microsoft were also panelists.
"That's a major transformation for a company like HP, which has been much more focused on an older crowd," Karim added.
Karim did not detail what devices the company will unveil this fall. Ann Finnie, an HP spokeswoman, wasn't familiar with the product line that Karim referenced. But she said the company generally has been trying to cater to a younger audience with products like the TouchSmart PC, a desktop with a touchscreen interface that's designed as a home entertainment hub. It was introduced in January 2007.
Karim's comments came during SD Forum's second annual Teens and Tech conference, a one-day event focused on how teens are using technology to innovate, start companies, and organize around causes. The event also delved into marketers' approach to the market, given that kids are spending more and more of their time online.
Matt Thompson, director of technology outreach and Sun's open-source programs office, said that Sun has made a play for teens by spinning out the site Freshbrain.org, an activities Web site for teens. He said the other way Sun reaches out to kids is by making everything free. Teens, he said, are extremely sensitive to free.
"My job is to literally give things away," Thompson said to a crowd of about 150 people at the conference, which was held on HP's campus. "We make a long term investment in those (kids) interested in technology."
It's doubtful that HP will be giving anything away for free. But according to Karim, the company is hoping to define a new generation of products with the help of its teen council. And some of those products might include gaming. Karim referenced the company's acquisition of computer game company Voodoo two years ago during his talk.
"We're very excited. Our core focus is on how we design for this space in way that we believe will define the next generation of products," he said.
JD Lewin, a Microsoft executive on the panel, was much more cavalier to the question of teens: "I don't know how we market to teens."