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Does HP have a development pipeline or a pipe dream?

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols | June 20, 2014
HP claims that its light-based, next-generation Machine will do everything except scrub the kitchen sink. But given HP's recent innovation track record, why should we believe any of it?

While HP's hardware teams are waiting around for memristors and silicon photonics to develop sufficiently to meet the needs of the Machine, its developers can keep busy, since HP says to make all this work it will need to create an entirely new operating system.

Having had some experience myself working on an operating system from the metal up, I can say that the development team just might welcome all the delays they can get in the development of memristors and silicon photonics. HP does have an alternative plan of building the Machine's operating system around Linux. Frankly, that makes a lot more sense. If Linux is good enough for supercomputers, it will be good enough for the Machine.

All right, then, let's do a reality check on HP's plans. It needs one major technology breakthrough, one major step forward in existing technology and a new operating system to boot. Even HP doesn't expect to see all of this working anytime within the next three years, but to think it can happen within that kind of time frame would be wildly optimistic.

I would say that same thing about the Machine no matter what company was promising it. But if this idea were coming from, say, Apple, IBM or Intel, I'd have to give them the benefit of the doubt. But HP? Sorry, no, it hasn't earned that kind of respect of late. I hate to put it this way, but with all the management trouble HP has been having over the last few years, with its announcements of one round of layoffs after another and with such notable technology flops as Moonshot, HP just isn't credible when it makes promises like this. In fact, promises like this come to sound like they are meant to be distractions from what is really going on inside the company.

I just find it very difficult to believe that a company that has cut 50,000 jobs in the last three years, that hasn't been any kind of technology leader for the last few years, and that -- sorry, Meg -- could have a different CEO next year is in a position to pull this off. The Machine is not a job for a company that has to keep cutting muscle to make the stockholders happy.

You know what I find easier to believe? HP disappearing entirely. Impossible, you say? I'm sure Sun executives felt the same way before Oracle bought that company out in 2009.


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