Meet the woman who inspired HP’s chicest computer yet

Harvey Norman CEO Katie Page explains female tech buying power.

By Garage Staff — December 1, 2017

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of stories highlighting the relationships between HP and its distribution partners. In this installment, HP Garage interviews Katie Page, CEO of Australia-based retailer Harvey Norman, which has 280 owned or franchised stores in eight countries, including New Zealand, Singapore and Ireland. In its home country alone, the retailer works with 1,100 suppliers that provide everything from furniture and bedding to televisions and kitchen appliances.
The chic, sleek HP Spectre Laptop, which InStyle Magazine called “the most beautiful laptop we’ve ever seen.”

The chic, sleek HP Spectre Laptop, which InStyle Magazine called “the most beautiful laptop we’ve ever seen.”

Harvey Norman
 has been selling notebooks, desktops and other technology products since the 1990s. To Chief Executive Katie Page, the endless beige or black boxes seemed to be designed by men for men.

Page, one of the few female corporate leaders in Australia, appreciated the engineering but not the sameness of design. She told one supplier: “This is fantastic, but you’re not showing me something for my female customer.”

That supplier — HP Inc. — listened. The result was Spectre, which InStyle magazine called “the most beautiful laptop we’ve ever seen.” Besides being the thinnest notebook on the market, it features a durable aluminum-and-carbon fiber case, sleek lines and rose-gold accents.

The Garage recently spoke with Page about her strong relationship with HP and the importance of give and take in partnerships.


How did you realize that technology had a design problem?

A physical store is so important — people still want to touch and feel things before they buy.

I was walking through our stores and other retail stores…and just seeing black things. There were lines of them, with different price points, but for a consumer, until you got into the nuts and bolts, they all looked the same. I called it the Stepford Wife-look because it was just aisle after aisle of same-looking things. And there was no passion in the design.


What’s the difference between what men and women want from technology?

Men generally see their computers as a work thing. Women want them to look good, too. So we weren't delivering for all the customers. We were delivering only for some.

Now, by presenting something different, technology has become a bigger part of customers’ lives. People want to carry it — have you noticed that? I'm just so pumped about it.


What does Harvey Norman expect from its relationships with suppliers?

We expect a partnership. If it's just “Whatever you've got, what's the price?” there's no relationship. There's no collaboration.

I wasn't having that many conversations with technology companies about design. You know everyone has amazing engineers. When you look at all the things that are happening, it's extraordinary. But if you haven't got design, then you're producing all this fabulous product that looks the same.


How were your conversations with HP different?

The thing that stands out about HP is, No. 1, their commitment to the strategy set by [CEO Dion Weisler]. When Dion started to talk about design, it was music to my ears.

We said there’s value — particularly to the female consumer — in offering something different from the next brand, the next product. Not only did HP want to engage in that, Dion expected it.

“If you havent got design, then youre producing all this fabulous product that looks the same.”

How did your relationship with HP Inc. change after its separation from Hewlett-Packard Company in November 2015?

We'd been with Hewlett-Packard a long time, so that was important to us, but as a brand, it wasn't going anywhere, in my opinion. It was a good relationship, but it was a run-of-the-mill relationship.

I love the fact that now, everyone on Dion's team is working in the same direction. They believe in the strategy. You often have a CEO and a team working on a strategy, but not all of them really believe in it.

We want to be able to ask questions about what the next five years look like. What is the direction you're taking with your product? And as we design our shops, how do you want your product to look on our floors in the next five years?


From your perspective as one of very few women running a large company, why is diversity important?

What I don't want to see is tick-the-box diversity, where companies say, “But look, we've got women there.” I say, “Are they the right women for what you're trying to achieve?” That's so important — you don't want to throw women under a bus by putting them in a position that's not right for them.

What I love again about HP, and Dion, is that he's thought through all that. He knows he has to have the best women possible for a position, just like he'd choose the best men. And that's what you're seeing at HP — much more thoughtful placement of women.

That’s not the case in Silicon Valley, where the numbers are dreadful. Many companies have such a long way to go. HP is a model for others in Silicon Valley.


Want to take a closer look? Discover the HP Spectre.