HP Labs Director Resigns as Company Considers Research Redirection

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 J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...