Itís hard to get excited about anything new and improved these days. The expectation is that innovation will persist and we become disappointed when it doesnít stay on schedule. Major discoveries like the structure of DNA, the LASER, and the sequence of the human genome are now taken for granted. Yet these breakthroughs were not that long ago. At the time of their discoveries nobody could have predicted the way our lives have been changed by this knowledge. Research becomes a funny thing, in that you can never predict what you will get. This makes it difficult for allocating money and human capital as there is no predicable return on this investment; economists are taught to go for the guaranteed return.
The point is too many companies are moving away from maintaining their research and development departments as they do not bring in direct profits. We shouldnít let profits dictate our decisions, if we did there would be no risk taking, no innovation, no breakthroughs; the next big thing would stay hidden.
Hewlett-Packard has been one of the fundamental foundations for todayís technology as we know it: computing outside of mainframes that took up whole buildings, began with one of HPís first products, the handheld calculator. Before that though, HP was bringing garage innovation to the marketplace with technical instruments that engineers used to discover new technologies. Over the years, as HP has grown it has expanded into other markets, to becoming the leader in market share for personal computing. They continue to support internal research with 600 PhDís working for them at HP Labs. Yet they havenít lost that hardcore engineering, innovative spirit, as evident by their HP Gaming division. The HP Gaming division had been an interest of the company for a while, but it wasnít until the assimilation of Voodoo PC that all the pieces were brought together.
Many may wonder why HP would bother with creating the HP Gaming division. I find that it is analogous to car manufacturers having a racing, or motorsport division. It is with these small, spec ops, divisions where individuals can innovate, with the huge financial backing of the parent company. Racing technology has given us innovations in car safety, performance, and quality. The first ABS systems or vehicle dynamics controls must have cost millions to develop and test, but that innovation has trickled down to our passenger cars. Car companies recognize that breakthroughs on the race track will, in the future, lead to better mainstream products. Success in racing often translates into success on the street. What comes to mind are Subaruís WRX STI, Mitsubishiís Evo, GMís C6, Audiís Quattro, Nissanís Skyline GTR, Mercedesí AMG division, and BMWís M division. These are all high performance divisions where the cars are sold at a substantial premium, but which offer the buyer a unique experience. Even if you canít own one of these cars, you have a sense of pride that your car shares its heritage with the car that lapped the Nurburgring in record time, or that won too many races forcing rule book changes the next year.
Computer companies are just beginning to realize this. They are starting to realize that excellence with gaming products, the upper high-end market, gives a company not only experience with high performance systems, but more importantly consumer recognition as being a leader in technology. Gaming is more of a global term, not all the systems will be used for games, but if you want the highest performance, you need to get a system that can Game. It has taken a while for computer corporations to get to this point, is that these divisions cannot be responsible to making money in the short term for these companies. Itís the same way with factory sponsored racing teams starting to enter competition with the smaller, dedicated racers.
We have seen the breakthroughs that basic research at HP has brought to our everyday lives. By allowing the HP Gaming division extra freedom to innovate, HP has shown their interest in improving the computing experience for all their customers, although the gamers will get the first crack at it.
These are the ambitious goals that have been set out by HP Gaming, and after nearly a year of collaboration, they have just come out with their first product, the HP Blackbird 002 with Voodoo DNA.