Tech Industry

HP Labs set to open in China

New facility joins six other labs worldwide run by the computer and printer maker.

Hewlett-Packard is preparing to open a research laboratory in China later this year with a focus on computer security and services, according to an HP Labs executive.

The plant will complement six other HP Lab sites worldwide in Palo Alto, Calif.; Cambridge, Mass.; Bristol, England; Haifa, Israel; Tokyo, Japan; and Bangalore, India.

"This plant along with the one in Bangalore will help us serve our next billion customers," HP Labs Associate Director Howard Taub revealed Wednesday during a meeting with CNET News.com reporters at HP's Palo Alto site.

Specific details of the location, building size and staffing levels are being reserved for a later date, Taub said.

The company already has lower-level research facilities in areas such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong, Shenzhen, and Jiangsu.

HP Labs employs about 600 people worldwide. Each one has its specialty.

For example, the Palo Alto lab has been doing work with microprocessors on a nanometer scale that the company says could one day replace current transistor technology. HP's lab in Israel researches several imaging and printing technologies and is home to data compression technology co-inventor Abraham Lempel. Researchers in Bangalore are experimenting with a portable photo printer and a solar cell for people whose towns don't have electricity but who need photos for passports or other identification purposes, Taub said.

In the Asia-Pacific region, HP already conducts research and development in China, Singapore, India and Japan in networking, mobile, general office, and wide-format printing categories.

While an executive team for HP Labs in China has yet to be publicly announced, a search on HP's Web site found Wenbo Mao named as a principal engineer for HP Labs China. Mao recently worked as a technical contributor to the trusted systems lab at HP Labs in England. He is also the author of a book on modern cryptography and focuses on computer security, computational grids and trusted computing.

Similar to IBM, Intel, Cisco Systems and other technology-related companies, HP has notched up its presence in China over the past 10 years.

Recently, HP announced plans to establish 1,000 retail outlets in 100 major cities in China to better compete with local favorite Lenovo and Dell.

In 2004, HP announced a $23 million development project in Beijing to build its Linux business in China.

The addition of a seventh HP Labs site addresses a fundamental shift in the labs' function, Taub said. While the first 30 years helped lead to innovations such as the HP 35--the company first pocket scientific calculator--and thermal inkjet technology, the labs have aligned themselves closer with HP's business units in the past few years.

"This was most evident in the transition from (former HP CEO) Lou Platt to (former HP CEO) Carly Fiorina," Taub said. "HP Labs was funded by the business units, and they always wanted to know what we were working on. From the outside, it was hard for them to understand the structure, and they would ask us why we needed several color scientists on certain projects. When Carly took over, she changed that back and now we come up with ideas and work on mini business plans to help carry the company forward."