Rahul Sood doesn't hold a grudge against HP. As a matter of fact, he "really loves HP," as he confessed in a recent blog post, and is hoping that when HP's finished reinventing itself, the OEM "comes back stronger and better than ever." Those are kind words for a company that ultimately drove Sood's Voodoo PC brand into the ground, but after witnessing HP do the same with Palm/webOS and try to duck out of the PC business altogether, one can't help but make some harsh observations.
Just over a month ago, Rahul Sood announced he was resigning from his position as the CTO of Global Gaming for Hewlett-Packard, a resignation that came with "mixed emotions." That's understandable, given that he built one of the most recognizable PC brands around in Voodoo PC, a company he put over two decades of service into.
At the time, there wasn't any indication what would come next for Sood, who simply said he "can't wait to be directly involved in a product pipeline again." He didn't have to wait long.
Well, it's probably time I let the cat out of the bag. I am happy to announce that I'll be joining Microsoft as the GM for System Experience in the Interactive Entertainment Business," Sood wrote in a blog post. "I'll be working on some really...really...really cool stuff come January 2011."
The wording of his new position leaves plenty of room for speculation on what exactly he'll be doing, which could include helping to design the next generation Xbox console.
Back before bulk OEMs made a made dash to scoop up boutique builders of high end gaming PCs, Voodoo PC stood as one of the elite. Rahul Sood, the man responsible for Voodoo PC, stayed on board when Hewlett-Packard acquired the company in 2006 and served as CTO of Global Gaming for HP. The ride is finally over.
"It is with mixed emotions that I have decided to resign from my position as the CTO of Global Gaming for Hewlett-Packard, my last day will be December 1, 2010," Rahul Sood digitally penned in what he describes as the most difficult letter he's ever written. "I've struggled with this decision for many months. I have effectively been employed with one job for 20+ years (Voodoo+HP) so it is the most difficult move that I have ever made in my life."
Sood, who has the Voodoo logo tattooed on his leg, didn't say why he's choosing to step down, instead heaping on the praise to those "who had a direct impact" on him over the years, including shout-outs to several Maximum PC stalwarts, including Jon Philips and rant-master Gordon Mah Ung.
"Voodoo was once a small company out of Calgary Canada, a city known for its oil and gas and certainly not for technology," Sood said. "I remember our first blockbuster review in Maximum PC; we were awarded a Perfect 10 'Kick-Ass.'"
The age-old war of mouse-and-keyboard versus gamepad has claimed yet another casualty. According to Voodoo PC founder Rahul Sood, Microsoft was attempting to bridge the gap between Xbox 360 and PC “many, many months ago” with a larger initiative that would have allowed gamers on both sides of the great divide to bond in the best way possible: by blowing each other into bloody chunks in games like Unreal and Gears of War. So basically, think the now long-deceased Shadowrun revival, but, you know, with matches that actually have other people in them.
So, what happened? This:
“I've heard from reliable sources that during the development they brought together the best console gamers to play mediocre PC gamers at the same game... and guess what happened? They pitted console gamers with their 'console' controller, against PC gamers with their keyboard and mouse,” Sood wrote on his blog.
“The console players got destroyed every time. So much so that it would be embarrassing to the XBOX team in general had Microsoft launched this initiative.”
Sood's not entirely sure if that's the sole reason Microsoft decided to burn its bridge, but it's his best guess. He also speculates that triple-A PC game development could've gotten a new lease on life had the initiative not bitten the big one.
Granted, perhaps tossing all its easily shattered eggs into a first-person shooter-centric basket wasn't such a great idea on Microsoft's part. After all, that's kind of mouse-and-keyboard's bread-and-butter. Even then, though, there's a simple solution: mouse-and-keyboard support for the Xbox 360. That definitely would've evened the playing field. Or how about specific servers/playlists for people with mouse-and-keyboard and those without?
Regardless, we're guessing other complications were the nail in this initiative's coffin, or Microsoft pulled the plug because the idea clashed too much with its current business model. Either way, it's a damn shame.
After being acquired by HP two years ago, Voodoo PC will no long operate as a stand-alone entity and will instead sell its products alongside the Compaq Presario and Pavilion PC lines. The integration could be taken as bad news for fans of the boutique OEM who fear the Voodoo branding might now fall off the map, but founder Rahul Sood assures on his blog that the merger is a good thing.
"Ultimately it means that Voodoo and Voodoo-influenced products will be easier to buy, faster to get, they will feature local service, and they will have the full power of HP's marketing and sales channel behind them. The bottom line is we have ignited the brand and sparked big excitement; so we are not integrating our organizations to fuel our growth," Sood wrote.
Despite the convergence, Sood is also telling readers the Voodoo brand name will remain. But what about the quality? Whether or not Voodoo-branded PCs can still retain their spunk remains to be seen, but this isn't the first time enthusiasts feared the worst. After HP acquired Voodoo in 2006, many wondered if the boutique OEM would still be able to perform at a high level, and that question seemed to be answered just weeks ago when Voodoo relaunced its website to showcase its new Envy 133 notebook and Omen desktop PCs.
Do you share Rahul Sood's same excitement over the merger, or is the beginning of the end?
Just call us licky. We mean, lucky. You've seen the official super-hot photos of the Voodoo PC's Envy laptop, but we got our hands on one and were able to take tons of close-up photos of the as well as try out the highly touted instant-on feature. Our initial impressions: the laptop is really light. HP claims the laptop (it was the SSD version) weighs three and a half pounds, and even though we didn’t have a scale in our messenger bags, it sure felt about the same weight as the Macbook air, power supply notwithstanding. Stacking the Envy against a Macbook Pro and Thinkpad X300, Voodoo’s pricey portable was both smaller and slimmer, though it sports a 13” screen.
Click the jump for more impressions and all the photos, including the instant-on Linux interface, laptop size comparisons, and gross licking details.