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HP Inc. CTO: To the PC and Beyond

PALO ALTO, Calif.—Although the PC market is in a historic decline, innovations in wearables, the Internet of Things and 3-D printing will drive computing forward, says Shane Wall. The chief technologist of HP Inc. officially takes on his role next month when the company starts its life as a standalone maker of PC and printers.

Analyst have mixed views about the future of the PC and the prospects for dividing into two companies Hewlett Packard, an icon of Silicon Valley. But Wall was upbeat in an interview with EE Times , sharing his ideas of the future and a few colorful stories from his past.

There’s plenty of room for innovation in conventional PCs, said Wall who has spent most of his career in the PC industry, much of it at HP. He described new computing markets in which HP Inc. will play, although it’s not clear whether the company has clearly defined platforms for many of them.

“We have a five-year vision of what’s next for HP Inc., and my job doesn’t officially start until November 1,” said Wall who will also manage the company's R&D labs.

The vision can be summed up in two words—blended reality. Mobile computers will meld into clothing, digital and physical worlds will blend into an Internet of Things and 3-D printers will turn virtual realities into physical ones.

Along the way, “if were successful, we will find significant new businesses in large growth areas,” Wall said

The 3-D printer space is the only one of the new markets where HP’s play is clear. The company announced a year ago plans to produce 3-D printers that use a variant of its laser jet technology to run ten times faster than today’s models and support a wider swath of printing materials that could ultimately include metallic and ceramic materials.

It’s a piece of what Wall calls the next industrial revolution, reshaping a $12 trillion manufacturing sector. The shift will create a $20 billion 3-D printer market by 2020 with a $600 million slice in consumer printers, he claims.

“We redirected a large chunk of the labs to focus on this,” Wall said.

HP’s first 3-D printers will debut next year, targeting commercial users. Like many HP printers, they include ASICs the company designed. In the meantime, HP has made small steps into this space with Sprout, it’s 3-D workstation and design tools and accessories for it.

There’s plenty of work ahead. 3-D printers will need new standards, including ways to describe a 3-D voxel, the equivalent of a pixel on today’s printers and displays.

“We are inventing that voxel and its properties,” said Wall. “With 4-6 bytes per voxel, the numbers become gargantuan, so how you describe it has a significant effect in the way you transmit and protect it,” he said.

HP's Sprout captures 3-D images with an overhead camera.

HP's Sprout captures 3-D images with an overhead camera.

To read the rest of this article, visit EBN sister site EE Times.

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