Wednesday, April 10, 2013

HP Labs update

So, notes from several "retirees" from HP Labs are worth summarizing

First of all, from our book HP Phenomenon, at one point circa 1975 CEO John Young credited HP Labs with creating half of HP's total revenue, which really meant that initial HP Labs work launched divisions which then turned the ideas or prototypes into viable businesses.   By 1988, Young proclaimed that the number was now 87% (which measured the fact that all of the peripherals group, all of the computer group, all of components group, and about half of Medical and Analytical groups originated with ideas from HP Labs.

Logic Analyzers, I used to insist with some vehemence, had NO help (just hindrance ) from the Labs.

All of this preamble is important to put in perspective the following metrics:

In 1966, a year after creating HP Labs (with incipient output of the HP 2116 minicomputer and the HP 9100 desktop calculator), HP Labs had 207 folk, 75 projectw, and 18% of HP's R and D budget.

In 1998, HPL had 900 scientists and 300 support folk in five locations (Palo Alto, CA; Cambridge, MA; Bristol, England, Haifa, Israel; and Tokyo, Japan.

In 2003, HPL Palo Alto had 500+ folk

In 2007, HPL Bristol had 167 folk; axed by 72 in a draconian move in 2009

By 2011, HPL worldwide was reportedly down to 400 folk

As of last Friday, HPL is being cut to 247 people worldwide.

In 1967, HP had four members of the National Academy of Engineering, and one in the Natioanl Academy of Science.  In 1987, HP had sixteen employees voted into the National Academy of Engineering, America's highest honor for designers, inventors, and engineering managers.

In 2009, HP had two in the NAE, none in the NAS

Put this alongside the Idea Factory book about Bell Labs in its heyday, and the parallels are striking.

No value to engineering research any more?  No wonder no 'hot products' are coming from HP, and in particular, no new "renewal segments" of business to take the place of dying PCs and wilting ink sales.

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