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Hewlett-Packard To Pivot Into 3D Printing

Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ ) CEO Meg Whitman said last week that the company will enter the 3D printing market in the middle of 2014.

The Hewlett-Packard story will be interesting to watch. Certainly Meg Whitman has proved she is a very capable CEO and knows how to build a world-class company. But announcing that you will enter the 3D Printing market next year may not be as easy or as automatic as the article from Seeking Alpha thinks it will be.

According to the article, Hewlett-Packard “…would need to be acquisitive, in order to get an edge and catch up with the market leaders.”

Is that all you have to do is buy an “edge” and assume leadership?

Evidently, the author does not remember that Hewlett-Packard had an agreement with Stratasys several years ago and let the agreement expire. That was before Meg Whitman, but why? Didn’t their customers want 3D printing?

Maybe Clayton Christensen’s theory in his book, the “Innovator’s Dilemma” could explain some things. For example, Christensen states that,

“Managers are powerless to change the courses of their firms against the dictates of their customers. Even if a manager has a bold vision to take her or his company in a very different direction, the power of the customer-focused people and processes in any company well adapted to survival in its competitive environment will reject the manager’s attempts to change direction.”

Evidently, Ms. Whitman has asked Hewlett-Packard’s labs to look into the technology. Could it be that her vision will meet resistance because it’s more important to focus on their current customers than to find new ones?

I do not know, nor pretend to know how this will turnout.  I do think it’s indicative of what happens when a disrupting technology begins to impact a legacy company. It will be interesting to watch how this unfolds because there are currently several powerful disrupting technologies bumping up against established companies.

The article talks about the implications for acquisitions in the stock market and if the author’s premises correct, there could be opportunities. Since we are a venture capital firm specializing in disruptive technologies, the interest for us at the moment is more about Schumpeter’s idea of “Creative Destruction” and how this process will be better for our economy than the Federal Reserve buying bonds from the banks so they can invest the money in the markets.

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