HP says Halo, but goodbye to video conferencing

13 Jun 2006

HP’s Irish manufacturing operation in Leixlip has been chosen as one of the company’s prime European locations for its growing network of Halo collaboration studios. As well as being used to promote the technology to global blue-chip customers like Pepsi, the studio will be used by engineers to boost HP Ireland ‘s position on the global research and development (R&D) supply chain.

The Halo collaboration studio consists of a specially kitted out three-screen room that connects seamlessly over a secure HP-owned high-speed network to a matching studio elsewhere in the world. The studio would be used by professionals ranging from high-powered executives conducting global strategy meetings and interviews to R&D teams in various parts of the world working on projects.

The vice-president and general manager of HP’s Halo project Ken Crangle, speaking to journalists in Leixlip via the company’s Halo studio in Oregon, said that the Halo studio concept also has potential applications in government, law enforcement, courtrooms as well as in the intelligence community.

So far some 20 Halo studios have been established within HP’s premises worldwide, followed by a further 50 studios for blue-chip customers of HP including Advanced Micro Devices, PepsiCo and Novartis.

The Halo concept, which includes plasma displays of life-size images, is a compelling and vivid experience and is geared to enable executives on different ends of the globe to collaborate as if they were in the same room. Participants can share documents and data from notebook PCs and zoom in on documents.

The technology came about through a collaboration between HP and major customer Dreamworks Studios.

HP intends to sell the service by offering to kit out studios and provide a 24×7 managed service, which includes network operations management and a concierge service.

Lionel Alexander, the managing director of HP Ireland’s manufacturing division, explained the importance of the new facility in Leixlip. “This Halo room will be central to working with counterparts across the world as well as partners in manufacturing and R&D. It is an endorsement of the HP facility in Leixlip.

“The investment also marks Leixlip’s move from being a manufacturing entity to being a key player in product development and marketing within HP,” Alexander said.

Alexander described the Halo Collaboration Studio as step beyond traditional video conferencing.

Michael Hoffman, senior vice-president of HP’s Imaging and Printing Group, affirmed the importance of the investment to the Leixlip campus, where a total of 2,100 people are employed in various roles. “All the major HP sites in Europe are connected by this system,” he said.

An average HP Halo Collaboration Studio represents an investment of €335,000 per studio followed by a network and service fee of around €14,000 per month per room. However, according to Crangle, the technology is only at the early stages and he anticipates the price to drop in line with most technologies as they evolve. He illustrated his point: “The world’s first LaserJet printer first cost US$3,095. Today you can buy one for US$29.”

The opening of the Halo studio was attended by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern TD who described the technology as bringing a new dimension to productivity and worldwide collaboration. “Knowledge and innovation are key to our continued success as an economy and the Government has invested heavily in R&D in recent years. HP’s main focus is on innovation and I know that it too invests heavily in R&D on products and services where it believes it can lead and make a unique contribution.”

By John Kennedy