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 user 2005-06-05 at 10:58:00 am Views: 90
  • #9574
    Hewlett-Packard has plans for a new

    CORVALLIS — First it was calculators. Then it was inkjet
    printers. What will be the next big thing for Hewlett-Packard’s Corvallis

    Steve Nigro isn’t saying, but HP’s top executive in Corvallis is
    willing to give a hint.

    “We’re going to have a really big announcement about
    a whole new printing platform we’ve been developing over the last five years,”
    he promised in an interview. “It focuses on taking inkjet to a whole new level
    in terms of speed, quality and cost of operation.”

    Nigro, senior vice
    president for imaging and printing systems technology platforms for
    Hewlett-Packard, declined to be specific about the timing of the announcement or
    offer any additional details on the new product.

    Peter Grant, an analyst
    for tech industry research house Gartner Inc., believes Hewlett-Packard may be
    on the verge of a breakthrough that could herald a new era of market

    “They’ve been hinting around that inkjet’s going to take a
    leap,” he said.

    Grant’s guess is that HP plans to unveil a wider
    printhead that could dramatically increase print speeds, possibly approaching
    those of business laser printers — something that competing companies have tried
    in the past but failed to achieve.

    While inkjet printers have always been
    cheaper, laser’s high-volume page production has given it a big advantage in the
    office market. A quantum leap in speed would be a major coup for HP’s inkjet
    printer business, which was launched in Corvallis and continues to be the site’s
    main focal point.

    “Other manufacturers haven’t even been hinting at
    this,” Grant said. “If HP can get the ink looking like laser … and they can
    get it printing like laser at, say, half the cost of laser — you can do the

    Not that HP Corvallis is pinning all its hopes for the future on
    the new printing platform. According to Nigro, the site is leveraging the
    expertise developed in 20 years of leading the inkjet business to develop a line
    of digital business projectors, rear-projection digital televisions and a host
    of other imaging and display applications.

    “Those are all
    multibillion-dollar markets,” he said. “If you can get big chunks of those
    businesses, you can be pretty successful.”

    But that doesn’t mean HP’s
    imaging and printing business or its Corvallis campus is immune from further job
    cuts. Mark Hurd, the company’s new chief executive, has strongly signaled his
    intention to slash costs, and various analysts have predicted cuts ranging from
    5 percent to 15 percent of the company’s global work force of

    Compared to the competition, HP still appears somewhat bloated,
    according to Gartner’s Grant.

    “I think there is still room for cutting,”
    he said.

    The company has been trumpeting a severance program that is
    carving 1,905 jobs out of its imaging and printing business, including 570 in
    Corvallis, both as a cost-saving measure and as a way to refocus its work force
    on promising new product lines. But Grant believes much of that refocusing has
    already been done, which could mean that any hopes for additional jobs in
    Corvallis are misplaced.

    “What didn’t get said is that they’ve been doing
    some hiring over the last two years as well,” Grant said. “They’ve filled in
    (during) the last two years. Now it’s time to weed.”

    While it remains a
    linchpin of Benton County’s economy, Hewlett-Packard has shrunk from 6,000 jobs
    in 1996 to fewer than 4,000 today. By the time the severance program winds up in
    October, that number likely will be closer to 3,000.

    But as painful as it
    may be to slash jobs, Nigro said, the alternative could be far worse.

    you don’t have a healthy business, the market’s brutal. You don’t want to get
    into a crisis. If you get into a crisis, that’s when really dramatic things
    happen,” he said.

    “The worst thing for us would be not making a move —
    not recognizing the future and trying to hold onto the past.”