Why Does HP Software Suck Sooooo Bad?


I have an HP Scanjet 4670 that I've owned for 3 years now. I haven't used it for a year however, and a few months ago when I rebuilt my machine, I didn't reinstall the HP drivers on purpose. This morning I needed to make a scan. I worked for an hour to try to figure out how to make it work without installing HP drivers (it's hard to find good information on whether this is even possible) and no joy. I really didn't want to install the drivers and all the other stuff HP would force on me, but I was stuck.

Reluctantly, I gave up, downloaded the 100Mb file and started the install, thinking maybe I could leave out the parts I didn't want. The first thing it does is say "your computer will need to be restarted." This is pretty annoying for a Mac person, but I said OK. The software immediately, with no warning, killed every running application and goes through the install. When the computer restarted, it on the initial grey screen without even showing the Apple logo. I tried restarting three times and was about to give up, but decided to try it with nothing plugged into the computer (note that the scanner was never plugged in). That did it and I finally got the thing to restart. Whew!

HP, of course, installs all kinds of crap in addition to the drivers and Photoshop plug-in I wanted, putting things on the Dock that I don't want there and, in general, just being annoying.

Compare this experience to what Mac users are accustomed to when they open a new piece of gear and turn it on. It's the stuff of legends--not to mention unboxing videos. Where Apple makes opening something new from them an almost religious experience, HP (and I think Windows-world stuff in general) treat it as a chore you've got to get through to get your work done. The two experiences are fundamentally different. Why?

This presentation from MX Week by Tim Brown of IDEO is instructive. Tim talks about how businesses approach innovation. Some approach it from the business standpoint: what will make money? Some approach it from the technology standpoint: what is viable? Some approach it from the design standpoint: what will people want? At some point every successful venture has to deal with all three of these questions, but different company cultures approach innovation from one primary standpoint or another.

With this backdrop, it's easy to see that HP, as a company with a strong engineering culture approaches their projects form the technology angle. Apple approaches the same kind of activities from a design standpoint. Thus the difference between unboxing an HP product and unboxing an Apple product.

Still, I wish the HP experience didn't suck so badly.