HP Labs Director Resigns as Company Considers Research Redirection

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2012-04-05 Print this article Print

HP Executive Chairman Ray Lane said he expects most of the company's future innovation to come from outside HP -- a clear indicator that HP Labs may play a reduced role in the development of new products.

Hewlett-Packard Senior Vice President Prith Banerjee, who for five years headed the corporation's vast research and development organization, HP Labs, will be leaving the company effective April 15.

This is according to an internal document distributed by CEO Meg Whitman and first reported April 4 by AllThingsD. As of April 6, HP hadn't made an announcement of Banerjee's (pictured) departure.

The timing of this move is uncanny. On April 3, HP Executive Chairman Ray Lane told attendees at the AlwaysOn OnDemand 2012 conference that he expects most of the company's future innovation to come from the entrepreneurial and startup communities€”a clear indicator that he expects HP Labs to play a reduced role in the development of new products.

Whitman, now in her seventh month as CEO of the world's largest IT company, is known to be looking for broader R&D focus and a faster time-to-market for HP products.

These desires do not match the pace of results at HP Labs, which consumed $3.3 billion in operating costs in the 2011 fiscal year, amounting to 2.5 percent of sales. The most important innovation to come out of HP's R&D in recent years has been the development of the memristor, which is next-generation memory that some industry people believe will eventually replace solid-state NAND flash and DRAM storage.

A memristor, basically a resistor with memory, apparently has more capabilities than anybody at first expected. HP Labs discovered that a memristor can perform logic, potentially enabling computation to be performed in chips where data is stored. This could mean a radical change in the way future IT is designed and built.

No Products Yet Use Memristors

HP Labs proved the memristor's existence back in 2008; prior to that time it been merely theoretical. However, four years later there are still no products that use it.

AllThingsD's Arik Hesseldahl reported that Banerjee is leaving HP for a position with another enterprise that will be based outside the United States.

HP Senior Fellow Chandrakant Patel, director of its Sustainable Ecosystems Research Group and a 25-year company veteran, will take over direction of HP Labs during the search for a permanent replacement.

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on Salesforce.com and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and DevX.com and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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