Thursday, September 17, 2015

HP Labs? Still a presence?

From the previous post, "at a conference examining the explosive growth of traffic on the Internet and future technology requirements. HP Labs notably absent - no longer even taken seriously in such circles."

I had dinner with an "old" HP Labs crony Tuesday evening in Menlo Park.  He chronicled the numbers --in 1990, with sales of $15B, HP Labs (the research teams that got HP into computing, and later did RISC architectures so well, and now 'of course' "THE MACHINE" which is eagerly anticipated by some, and scorned as 'so much hype' by others) had 1200 staff, in Palo Alto and Bristol, England.

In 2010, after Carly and Hurd collectively (but with Lew Platt's help also), the employee count was down to 400, in five world-wide locations (outposts only in three of them).  Revenues were $127B.  And Hurd was caught 'pants-down' so to speak.  Wonder if he's got friends at Stanford Biz School (wasn't that sad about Garth Saloner's shenanigans, vehemently denied)?

Today, after the Martin Fink arrival replacing Prith Banerjee three years ago, the Labs is down to 250 folk, while HP chugs along, pre-split, at $111 Billion

HP Labs of course was "the renewal engine" for HP for decades, providing most of the impetus for (1) leadership in scientific computing; (2) leadership in mobile computing (the HP 35 and other handhelds); (3) leadership in department business computing; (4) leadership in peripherals, esp. printers and imaging

Not to mention leadership in integrated circuits (building and shipping 75,000 16-bit microcomputer chips before Intel delivered its first 16-bit sample chips; 90% of the world's Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs) for two decades; 90%+ of the Gallium-Arsenide devices that today power the satellite communications systems of the world), medical diagnostics, and analytical chemistry.

What, you might ask, has HP Labs done for renewal for HP since 1990?  Hard to specify?  Hard to decide?  Hard to know?

What IS the cross-product of 250 researchers divided by $110B vs. 1200 researchers divided by $15B?

The answer is a shocking 1 researcher today for every 106 researchers twenty-five years ago per revenue dollar.  A bet of 1% of what it used to be on interesting forward-looking research.  Whew

And in 1990, HP had 16 members of the National Academy of Engineering; today my sources indicate that they have only one.   For two decades from the start as a public company in 1957, HP had a Nobel Prize-winner (Luis Alvarez) from Berkeley and the Dean of Engineering from Stanford, Fred Terman, on the Board of Directors.  Quite a vote for Engineering Excellence--for a long time.  Not so evident today?

To be sure, many of the 'big labs'--Bell Labs, XeroxPARC, MCC among them--have dwindled.

But gosh... innovation seems still pretty important for leadership in this crazy competitive world.

1 comment:

Walter Underwood said...

How big is Keysight Labs? T&M was a big chunk of what HPL did.

They currently have five IEEE Fellows.