Voodoo PC Founder to Leave HP as "Things Got a Little Complicated"

As HP Kills Voodoo DNA, Rahul Sood Leaves HP

by Anton Shilov
11/17/2010 | 11:55 PM

Rahul Sood, the founder of Voodoo PC boutique PC builder acquired by HP in 2006, said that he would leave his position of HP's chief technology officer of global gaming later this year. While no exact reasons for the retirement were indicated, it is highly likely that HP itself is changing its focus these days and is no longer interested in unique desktops or laptops aimed at gamers and demanding users.


"[With HP] we merged, we invented, we kicked ass, and we had fun, but then things got a little complicated. [...]People who know me best know that I’m not satisfied collecting a paycheck unless I am making a remarkable difference," said Rahul Sood in his blog.

Mr. Sood founded Voodoo PC in 1991 with the aim to build custom high-performance personal computers. Eventually, the company started to manufacture heavily-tweaked machines for gaming. Many of such systems utilized exotic components, cooling systems and featured eye-catching designs. The company, which employed more than 40 people then, was acquired by HP in 2006 after the latter's arch-rival Dell took over another boutique PC maker called Alienware.

While independent, Voodoo PC used to offer a broad family of various desktops, including Rage (gaming desktop), Aria (media center), Hexx (small gaming desktop), Eden (silent gaming desktop) and others as well as several laptops. But after the acquisition by HP the only Voodoo-branded systems released were Omen high-end gaming desktop as well as Envy luxurious notebook. Other products aimed at demanding customers were marked as Voodoo DNA and came under HP brand.

While at HP, Rahul Sood played different roles, including management of HP's gaming PC business, commercialization of inventions of HP Labs, working with Palm webOS development community and so on.

"As many people have reflected, we brought an indescribable edge to HP; we helped to bring “cool” back to HP. We helped change the way the company thinks about design and consumer experiences and most recently received the Computer of the Year award from Wired for the Envy 14. It shall be a strong reminder of our Voodoo roots each time HP releases a new HP Envy device," said Mr. Sood.

But unlike Dell, which allows Alienware to develop, prosper and pass some of its technologies to the parent company, HP has been gradually getting rid of Voodoo brand-name and its DNA of custom-PC build. For example, at present the company sells no Voodoo-branded personal computers and its highest-performing desktop - HP Pavilion Elite HPE-490t - not only does not carry even Voodoo DNA moniker, but comes in a cheap black case and offers exceptionally poor choice of graphics cards (Radeon HD 5570 is default choice, GeForce GTX 460 is the best option) despite of hefty price-tag. In general, HP not only did not improve the HP brand anyhow, but essentially killed it.

Changing roles at HP did not allow Mr. Sood to concentrate solely on development of Voodoo-branded offerings, which lead to demise of the Voodoo ideology within HP. Sub-par desktops aimed at demanding users sold under HP Pavilion Elite trademark cannot inspire interest of a true PC gamer or a customer who demands top-notch product.

"I cannot wait to be directly involved in a product pipeline again. Nothing motivates me more than when I am empowered to make big bets and help to create awesome products just as we did throughout most of my career," concluded Mr. Sood.

With Rahul Sood gone and HP's questionable stance on gaming PCs, it may result in departure of HP from the market of high-end personal computers designed for gamers.