Rahul Sood, the founder of boutique computer maker VoodooPC, has announced he is leaving his position as Hewlett-Packard’s CTO of Global Gaming effective December 1, 2010. Sood’s departure may not bode well for HP’s future in the high-performance gaming market: when HP acquired VoodooPC back in 2006, the company promised to keep the VoodooPC brand around s well as make itself a key player in the gaming PC marketplace. Although the company gained some converts with its BlackBird gaming systems, the VoodooPC brand eventually vanished, and HP itself seemed to lose enthusiasm for the gamer market. “We merged, we invented, we kicked ass, and we had fun,” Sood wrote on his blog, “but then things got a little complicated.”
HP’s acquisition of VoodooPC came when it seemed major computer makers were finally taking an interest in the high-performance (and high-margin) gamer market: around the same time, Dell acquired gaming PC maker Alienware and gamers got hopeful that high-performance technology would migrate far into mainstream product lines. Although technology and performance have generally improved—and mainstream computer makers like Acer are also trying to compete in the gaming market—for the most part mainstream PC manufacturers don’t seem to know what to do with gaming systems, and have instead focused attention on performance for high-definition and even 3D video. The net result is that, for very serious gamers, boutique computer makers like Falcon Northwest, iBuyPower, Velocity Micro, Maingear, Origin, and others still command attention from folks who want to spec out their own rigs, while mainstream PC makers have largely failed to capture market attention.
Sood hasn’t said what he plans to do after leaving HP, save to say “I can’t wait to be directly involved in a product pipeline again.” It also remains to be seen whether HP will even attempt to continue competing in the gamer space: with so much of the company’s efforts focused on other areas, even an organization as large as HP has to question the value of catering to a niche market.