HP opens S'pore design center

update The first of such facility outside United States, the Singapore site will work with teams in India and China to design and build future Hewlett-Packard imaging and printing products to be sold worldwide, company execs say.

update SINGAPORE--Hewlett-Packard today opened a new imaging and printing design center here, the vendor's first of such facility outside the United States.

The center houses a team of 35 industrial and user-interface designers who work on developing HP's inkjet and Web-enabled printers, based on a "holistic design" approach such as enhancing user experience by replacing button panels with touch-screen displays.

Shefali Nagpal, a HP design strategist explained that while concepts and designs are created in Singapore, the designers work closely with satellite offices in Shanghai and Bangalore to ensure products eventually created are feasible and will form future product lines to be sold worldwide.

Nagpal also revealed that "product testing" for emerging markets are carried out at the Singapore facility.

Vyomesh Joshi, executive vice president of HP's imaging and printing group, explained that in today's connected world, it is no longer enough to a provide a printing device to the customer.

Joshi said: "This is a model on which we want to develop [usability] experience, to let customers view the printer as a Web services platform, and think about the content and services rather than the product alone."

HP recently launched a range of printers, targeted at small and medium businesses, which are Web-enabled and allow users to send files and pictures via e-mail for remote printing.

According to the designers, the printers also have the ability to filter spam and allow administrators to block outsiders from utilizing them.

The 5,000 square feet Asia-Pacific hub was set up in April this year, according to Joshi, who added that the team scoured for locations around the region. HP eventually settled on Singapore because of the vendor's long working relationship with the city-state, including the successful conversion of R&D (research and development) efforts into marketable technology, and the country's ability to attract international talents.

The designers were hired from nine countries including Indonesia, Korea and Netherlands, and the center plans to hire 10 more designers by the end of the year, HP said.

Electronics sector driving R&D
Singapore's Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, Lui Tuck Yew, who was at the opening ceremony, noted that the standards of local designers are improving. He said: "The next step [of development] is to get designers to work with enterprises and engineers to ensure designs created are functional and marketable."

Lui added that, moving forward, good design is increasingly important to differentiate products and services. "Hence, the [country's] DesignSingapore Council is working hard to bring designers together with enterprises to make sure they understand the requirements of consumers and enterprises require," he said.

Describing the electronics industry as a "lynchpin" of Singapore's industrial growth, Lui said the sector contributed over 30 percent to the state's manufacturing output last year.

The local electronics sector also transformed the country into an economy driven by R&D and knowledge, he said, noting that the sector accounted for almost 60 percent of Singapore's total private sector R&D in 2008.


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