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Posted at 01:47 PM ET, 08/19/2011

Hewlett-Packard vs. IBM

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It’s Friday, so it’s time to vote for the innovator of the week.

There was quite a bit of activity in the technology sector this week, with companies being acquired, others being spun-off and executive mansions joining geo-tagged social networks.

Given the wealth of companies we had to choose from this week, we settled on two that we felt were moving the innovations needle in opposite ways, while still moving forward.

To read more about what Hewlett-Packard and IBM did and vote for the innovator of the week, read below.

IBM: The company has been in the headlines pretty consistently this week for both its work with graphene — the thinnest, toughest material ever produced — and its creation of a chip that mimics the human brain, among other work.

The challenge of creating a computer that can learn like a human being has been a long sought-after technological milestone. From Star Wars’s C-3PO and R2D2 to Star Trek’s central computer, fiction has long presented us with the possibility of human-computer interaction that is identical to that between two human beings. With its Thursday announcement, IBM signaled that it is a few steps closer to achieving that reality.


IBM’s Cognitive Computing Chip. (HO - AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
The company has created two prototype chips that it says process data more like the human brain than ever before. The breakthrough is the result of a six-year long project, involving 100 researchers and $41 million in funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The chips currently are able to steer a car through a maze and play the classic computer game Pong — relatively simple tasks. But what’s important is how the chips go about doing it, since the chips can adapt to new types of information without being programmed to do so.

IBM’s discovery is a significant one. As University of Wisconsin at Madison psychiatry professor Giulio Tonono told the Associated Press, “...this is not one step, it’s a few steps.”

Hewlett-Packard: Hewlett-Packard also made a big announcement Thursday. But rather than create a new product, the company decided to do away with quite a few — specifically, its entire WebOS hardware product line. The company also announced that it was exploring the option of putting its PC unit up for sale too.

The announcement was met with speculation as to what the decision could mean for the future of not only HP, but personal computing as well. An interesting point to consider, since HP is creating a moment of great potential by shedding deeply-embedded but troubled sections of its company to focus on well-performing ones. As commenter “WoodleyParker1” wrote “The WebOS operating system was a beautiful operating system.”
The Hewlett-Packard TouchPad is seen on display in the Best Buy store. (David Paul Morris - BLOOMBERG)

Our innovator-of-the-week competitors followed divergent paths, but both were innovative. IBM moved the ball forward by creating a ground-breaking microchip, while HP challenged the marketplace to re-think not only its role in the future of personal computing, but the very nature and necessity of the personal computer — all while creating more breathing room for an operating system that many have said holds a great deal of potential.

But we leave it to you to determine the innovator of the week.

Read more on Innovations:

The web reacts to HP’s bombshell

IBM works with world’s thinnest material to achieve faster computing

IBM makes breakthrough in pursuit of a chip that behaves like the human brain

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By  |  01:47 PM ET, 08/19/2011

Categories:  Business, Innovator of the Week, Invention, Technology, Research

 
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