HP Labs: A look at its big bets

Hewlett Packard has issued its 2010 annual report for its research and development arm and outlined its big bets for the years ahead. Some of these bets are of the me-too variety while others are more promising.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Hewlett Packard has issued its 2010 annual report for its research and development arm and outlined its big bets for the years ahead.

HP's big research bets are expected to become significant businesses if everything works out. HP Labs in 2010 transferred more than 120 technologies to its business units. HP's approach to R&D revolves around "purposeful innovation" and the returns are measured based on what innovations turn into products. This approach means that some of HP's big bets---especially ones that revolve around analytics and data centers---sound a bit me-too. What tech vendor isn't looking at analytics and sustainable data centers?

Other areas like the central nervous system for Earth sound more interesting. What remains to be seen is how HP Labs adapts under new CEO Leo Apotheker, who has indicated that he will spend more on R&D. As a percentage of revenue HP's research and development spending has fallen from 6 percent in 2001 to 2.3 percent for fiscal 2010. IBM has consistently spent 6 percent of revenue on R&D and takes a broader approach.

Here's a look at some of HP's big bets:

  • Cirious: An enterprise cloud platform. The idea behind Cirious is to make HP a service provider for cloud computing players so they can develop, host and manage their services easily.
  • Automated security: HP's goal here is to add analytics to security management and automate things like threat detection, governance and fixes.
  • IT Informatics: HP Labs is aiming create a unified store of corporate data sources for IT managers to visualize resources. With these informatics, IT managers can automate systems and mine sequences and data.
  • Live business intelligence: HP Labs is eying a LiveBI Platform that takes data management and fuses it with analytics and execution.
  • Taming information overload: HP says it wants to highlight "non obvious patterns and implications" to provide insight. The research effort revolves around contextual relevance, timeliness, scale of information and gauging importance of data.
  • CeNSE (Central Nervous System for the Earth): HP aims to "provide a new level of environmental awareness" via a network of cheap sensors and data storage gear. That infrastructure will be enhanced by analysis tools. The goal: Create "a Moore's Law for sensing," says HP, which is focusing on the networking fabric to make this effort work.
  • Next-gen data centers: The goal here is to create automated and programmable data centers that integrates novel computing platforms, scalable systems and programming platforms.
  • Next-gen scalable storage: HP Labs is examining how to allow for data updates even during network failures.
  • Nonvolatile memory and storage: HP's memristive memory program is designed to ultimately replace Flash, DRAM, SRAM and hard drives. The research effort is to create new materials and structures to make memristive technology reality.
  • Photonics: The research effort hear is focused on replacing copper-based electrical connections with optical laser communications links in IT equipment.
  • Continuous View Glasses-Free 3D: HP's aim is to "accurately replicate the physical world with respect to our visual and auditory senses." According to HP, the goal is to ditch the 3D glasses and create displays where multiple viewers see the same screen with a different reality.
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    Next generation displays (right): "The future will bring a display that will be able to show print-quality information as well as video and interactive media, will be lightweight, robust and mobile, and can be manufactured at low cost with low capital investment," says HP.
  • Flexible programmable networks: The idea is to create a wired and wireless unified network with central control. Network management will be holistic and automated.
  • Document lifecycle: HP wants to blend electronic and physical content and have them move seamlessly between the two.
  • Automated publishing: This research effort aims to "create a truly relevant and compelling content experience for mobile and Internet users" via design, modeling, relationships and user interfaces.
  • Commercial print automation and processes. HP is trying to revamp commercial printing workflow and develop "breakthrough print engine technology."
  • Operations analytics and personalization. "We foresee the emergence of the analytic enterprise: an enterprise in which clean, real-time data automatically feeds models of key business implications," says HP. This analytics platform would also account for mass personalization.


HP Labs 2010 Annual Report

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