Business wearables a juicy target market for HP Inc.

HP will not introduce its own consumer wearable, but provide the underlying technology to third parties

In an already crowded market, HP Inc. isn't interested in introducing a smartwatch under its own brand. The company, however, sees an untapped opportunity for wearables in businesses.

A small project run by the CTO office at HP is focused on developing wearable technology, with a heavy emphasis on the enterprise market. On occasion, the company will provide engineering expertise for consumer wearables like high-end smartwatches from Movado and Michael Bastian.

"We're learning as we go along," said Ron Coughlin, president for personal systems at HP, in an interview. There are plenty of consumer wearables, but businesses are still reviewing how best to use them, and therein lies the opportunity, Coughlin said. He did not detail specific devices, but said "watch this space," leaving the door open for the introduction of wearables that could be used by companies of different sizes.

If HP releases business wearables, they will join a product family that includes PCs, tablets and printers. The diversity of products could meet the needs of specific verticals like healthcare, or enrich education and retail experiences, Coughlin said.

It's been under a month since the original Hewlett-Packard split into two: HP Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. The organizations are working together to ensure continuity for customers, Coughlin said.

At the same, the split has benefits for HP.

"It frees us up to work with other system integrators ... who might have hesitated because we were associated and part of the same company as [Hewlett-Packard Enterprise]. We see it as more of an opportunity," Coughlin said.

HP Inc. is a Fortune 100 company but operates much like a startup, and is much faster on product development and project execution, Coughlin said.

There are still challenges ahead. The PC market is soft, but Coughlin hopes it will recover when enterprises and consumers start upgrading PCs with the latest hardware and Windows 10 OS.

HP is also tweaking its tablet strategy to focus more on business devices. Tablet shipments are declining, device prices are falling fast, and HP is de-emphasizing the consumer market, Coughlin said.

Don't expect HP to pull all of its consumer tablets, however. Some low-end tablets will remain available to fulfill consumer demand, though HP won't offer a wide range of consumer products.

HP is hoping innovation will help the company grow in a stagnant PC market. The company is embracing the concept of "blended reality," where 3D features and virtual reality are mixed into product offerings. One example is the Sprout desktop, where 3D images can be manipulated. The HP 3D printer will be the "offramp" product that will supplement products like Sprout, Coughlin said.

Coughlin didn't say if HP had plans to release a virtual reality headset or holographic computer like Microsoft's HoloLens. Such a device could be a key piece in HP's blended reality plan.

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Agam Shah

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