“It’s like the Mona Lisa,” marvels a colleague. We’re standing in HP HQ in downtown Sydney, for the highly anticipated launch of two new products. One in particular, the HP Spectre Fold, which has attracted hordes of tech media, about eight-people deep, frothing in excitement with cameras flashing furiously, prompting the comparison to Leonardo’s masterpiece displayed at the Louvre.
This new release is exciting from an innovation point of view: it’s the world’s thinnest and smallest 17-inch foldable PC that seamlessly integrates the best features of a laptop, tablet and desktop for the ultimate hybrid experience. But as a parent who hates my children having a PC in their room, my excitement lies on the plinth adjacent, showcasing the HP Envy Move– the world’s only moveable all-in-one PC.
Its versatility sees it act as a workstation and a TV – perfectly compact, it can run on battery power for four hours so is the perfect camping companion for the great, unpredictable, Kiwi summer. It’s also the ideal screen for an online workout, following cooking tutorials and for easily being able to remove from your children’s bedroom when their screen time is up.
We’re gathered here because HP has brought journalists from around the APAC region to Sydney to see these new products and partake in the city’s inaugural SXSW festival, of which they (along with Intel) are a major sponsor of the Tech and Innovation Conference.
The festival, which originated as a music showcase in Austin in 1987 before expanding into film and, more recently, tech, took place outside of Texas for the first time, and the city was buzzing with the presence of indie artists, creatives, innovators and thought leaders from around the globe. Attendees were seeking inspiration and professional enlightenment, while many participants were hoping to get noticed. Indeed, keynote speaker Chance the Rapper, during his eloquent and emotional talk to celebrate 50 years of hip hop, spoke about how paying his own way to SXSW in Austin led to a chance encounter that kicked off his illustrious career.
Tech and gaming are by far the biggest categories at SXSW these days, and it’s no different in Sydney where HP and Intel are at the forefront of these discussions. HP’s ‘blue cube’ outside the International Convention Centre Sydney, was a brilliant way to showcase their innovation: in line with their ‘Flex’ launch, guests were asked to type their biggest flex on the HP Spectre Fold in the entrance, before walking into the cube and seeing it lit up on the walls.
I attended an array of thought-provoking and inspiring SXSW Sydney talks: Chance the Rapper spoke about racism in the wake of the shocking Australian referendum results, Naomi Watts was on an emotional panel about menopause, and I enjoyed another on the use of psychedelics in the treatment of mental health. Another highlight was a discussion between She Loves Tech co-founder Leanne Robers and HP NZ country manager Oliver Hill, exploring the findings of its first HP Work Relationship Index – a comprehensive study that explores employees’ relationships with work around the world – and the impact work has on employee well-being, productivity, engagement and culture.
The popularity of this discussion, which was standing room only, is proof that this is a topic ripe for dissection. Expectations of work have changed dramatically over the past few years, and with HP’s research revealing only 27% of workers have a healthy relationship with work, it’s clear younger members of the workforce in particular (i.e. Gen Z and millennials) are increasingly looking for empathetic leaders and workplaces where they feel they are able to provide value.
HP’s findings showed a majority of people are even willing to take pay cuts to work somewhere that provides this. When workers aren't fulfilled or valued, productivity diminishes, as does employee moral, retention and engagement, driving burnout and mental health. Technology and flexibility are two ways that HP see themselves as being able to add value to the workforce, and the Flex(ible) nature of these two products to join their stellar lineup are sure to do just that.
SXSW Sydney had a strong film component (local film Uproar played there to great reviews, and I was gutted to miss Emerald Fennell’s Saltburn) and dynamic music offering, but it was tech, innovation and thought leadership that really shone through. I suspect, in industries where we’re all scrambling to keep up, this will be the main pillar of SXSW in years to come.