David Tebbutt, IWR Blog

Last night (UK time) Hewlett Packard announced its new Labs structure. By focusing on five areas, it hopes it will become more effective. The five areas are: information explosion; dynamic cloud services; content transformation; intelligent infrastructure; and sustainability. All are jolly important and all reflect today’s hot issues for the company.

Of the 23 labs in total, the biggest ones will be in Palo Alto, then Bristol and the remainder strung out around the world. Prith Bannerjee, the director in charge, talked of “twenty to thirty big bets, rather than the 120 to 150 of the past.”

It would be interesting to know how many of Hewlett Packard’s past successes came about as the result of serendipity rather than focused research. Bannerjee says that the approach of the past was appropriate for its time. I remember some of the garage startup style tinkering that used to take place. It often led to interesting software products, but none of them set the world on fire. So perhaps he’s right.

Bristol has landed semantic web research. China is looking into searching visual content. Cloud services are personalised to where you are and what you’re using. You’d expect more research into digitisation and digital to analog (pictures on buses for example). And you’d be right. Intelligent infrastructure is all about secure networks for banks, governments and the like. And sustainability is about ways of moving to a low carbon economy.

The new labs will work closely with the outside world, with venture capitalists, entrepreneurs-in-residence and university students. You can take a look at some of what’s going on at the IdeaLab website. HP Labs will seed HP’s own business with teams, creating more of a start-up environment for new initiatives.

Apparently, although the labs are highly focused, they will still allow blue sky research within them. A third of the work will be applied research, a third will be advanced product development and a third will be blue sky.

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