What methods did Louis Gerstner and Steve Jobs used to turn around IBM and Apple? Owning the next technology wave - for Louis Gerstner it was mainframes, and for Steve Jobs, it was personal electronics.
Which market should HP enter to turn it around? Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst of the Enderle Group, posted his proposal: one is personal robotics, another is 3D printing.
Both are pulling a lot of ink, but neither has yet created a company of IBM's scale or Apple's potential yet. HP is aligned with both trends-though far mare aligned with the one that is potentially more disruptive to the current world order.
1. Personal Robotics
This wave is actually composed of two phases: personal robots and assembly-line robots. The mechanical structures of HP's printing division are actually close to those used in robotics. (If you think about it, a printer and a PC are essentially a robot that can replace a typist, secretary or stenographer.) HP combined its PC and printer divisions in March. Put its in-house designers to work and this could form the core of an integrated robotic system.
Robotics is still relatively new at this stage, personal robots would give HP a fast channel to enter the market.
2. 3D Printing
Though there were many breakthrough in 3D printing more complex parts, 3D printing is still complex and further from market than robots. Currently HP dominates the printing business, it makes sense for HP to extend its products line to 3D printers.
Currently professional 3D printers such Zprinter uses HP printheads for colors. Since January 2010, 3D printer manufacturer Stratasys has been developing and manufacturing HP's exclusive line of FDM 3D printers. In later 2010 HP began a phased rollout of the 3D printers in the mechanical design (MCAD) market in select European countries. However in August 2012, Stratasys and HP announced that they will discontinue their manufacturing and distribution agreement for 3D printers, effective at the end of 2012.
What HP thinks is not clear. But Rob Enderle suggests that HP could also enter low-cost 3D printer market by providing cheaper 3D printers for home users.
Think of the market for parts for discontinued appliances, specialized tools, cars, furniture or other items, and couple that with the market for folks who want to easily create their own ideas in 3D spaces (including the many of us who are closet artists). The potential 3D printing market, then, is in line with today's iPad market-that is, hundreds of millions, assuming the right product at the right price.
In the end, this is likely the most compelling second act for HP. Initially, it would link the workstation and PC products on the creation side as well. In addition, there would clearly be a viable, and likely protectable, supply business for the printers. Getting what is printed to have the right attributes of strength, flexibility, resistance to heat and finish would likely require a variety of materials that HP could sell, much like the ink it sells today.
HP must think outside the box, says Rob Enderle. So instead of trying to catch IBM or Oracle, HP need to find a wave and enter the ermerging markets to turn itself around.
Posted in 3D Printing Companies
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