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by Mike Zazaian September 28, 2006 - 11:00pm, 3 Comments

A VoodooPC enthusiast PC

HP announced today the integration of VoodooPC, a leading enthusiast PC company in the US. And while it may seem that Voodoo will lose its identity under HP’s corporate umbrella, (former) Voodoo CEO Rahul Sood insists that he’s not selling the company’s soul.

The announcement comes about six months after Dell acquired Alienware in an effort to expand its own enthusiast PC line. VoodooPC will function under the HP Personal Systems Group, with Rahul Sood staying on as the chief technologist. His brother and VoodooPC co-owner Ravi Sood will become the new director of strategy.

Both HP and VoodooPC have been quietly shopping around for such a deal for some time, but only during the past few months have they discussed a relationship with each other. According a post on Rahul Sood’s personal weblog, VoodooPC began looking for sugar daddies last July, when during a trip to the Tour-de-France Sood pursued an exec from an unnamed OEM. After that went bust along with courtship from a series of Taiwanese ODMs, Rahul and brother Ravi decided VoodooPC wasn’t up for sale:

Some time ago, after receiving an interesting offer “to take Voodoo to the next level”, my brother and I agreed that we would never simply take a check for the company. We also agreed that it would not make sense to go downstream to grow our brand like all of our competitors.

Interestingly, sometime before the Alienware acquisition Sood’s interests in selling VoodooPC were piqued again when Michael Dell contacted Sood on a number of occasions. The discussions entailed VoodooPC being integrated into Dell’s existing XPS enthusiast line, a move that likely would have tainted the VoodooPC branding if it had gone down. Ultimately Dell went with Alienware, and VoodooPC went its own way.

After severing talks with Dell, however, the Sood brothers recalled a discussion with an HP exec at a party during that same week in France:

It was only until the final tour stage there was an after party near the Champs-Elysees in Paris. There was a lady at the event by the name of Dana from HP’s marketing department (she’ll be pleasantly surprised when she reads this). I figured that was a good time to float some of our ideas and she seemed extremely receptive. She was very up front and honest as she told me of their challenges in gaming. She agreed that we should have further discussions with them. After I returned to Calgary we exchanged a few emails and things went silent.

After abandonment from Dell Sood got back in touch with HP, which for the past couple months has been engaged in super-secret discussions over the role that VoodooPC would play under the HP corporate structure. What pleased Sood the most about HP is its exceptional track record of innovation, something he thinks will be a great boon to the expansion and future development of the VoodooPC line:

Even though you may not know it there is one thing about HP that makes them stand out among the rest: serious innovation. Backed by a $3.5+ billion dollar R&D budget, HP labs was generating an average of eleven unique patents a day. We’re not talking about “supply chain innovations” either; they are sitting on a treasure trove of product innovations with massive potential. For me, getting a ticket into HP Labs would be like Charlie getting a ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory. I was relentless… Yes, HP was/is the company that both my brother and I agreed is the perfect match for Voodoo.

Today represents the culmination of several months of severe secrecy. HP and VoodooPC have discussed exactly how Voodoo will fit into HP family, and it seems that HP plans to give Sood and the VoodooPC division the freedom it needs to thrive as a niche market producer in its new, much-much larger setting. Even though HP has turned out to be a complete hack in many of its ventures in recent years, Sood feels that HP has cleaned up its act under the management of new CEO Mark Hurd:

Much to our satisfaction, under Mark Hurd HP is a totally different company from a year ago. While there are mixed opinions, I believe Carly Fiona helped to create the groundwork for HP’s success today – but from the outside the organization seemed to lack operational efficiency. Mark Hurd brought with him a tornado of new blood and new culture into the company.

It may appear at first that VoodooPC has sold its soul for a hefty check. But in fact Sood has enough integrity and appreciation for his company as not to make a move that would damage VoodooPC consumer base, or its soul. The enormous amount of R&D now available to Sood and the VoodooPC line will bring innovations the likes of which have never been seen by the Enthusiast PC market, simply because such a combination of personal investment and pure bankroll has yet to exist.

As a show of solidarity VoodooPC will remain headquartered in its native Calgary, promising to retain all of its prior customers, clients and associates. Sood has also promised that despite the company’s now much larger stature, VoodooPC will provide equal if not better customer service and attention. If Sood can keep his promises, and keep the integrity of the VoodooPC bloodline in tact, the VoodooPC/HP partnership could prove enormously beneficial for both manufacturers and consumers alike.

[via Rahul Sood’s Blog]