Join gaming leaders, alongside GamesBeat and Facebook Gaming, for their 2nd Annual GamesBeat & Facebook Gaming Summit | GamesBeat: Into the Metaverse 2 this upcoming January 25-27, 2022. Learn more about the event. 

Tomorrow, HP will unveil a new product named Sprout, which is the company’s attempt to regain relevance. But it almost never saw the light of day.

HP recently announced that it’s splitting into two companies, one to carry the company’s consumer torch and the other to focus on the enterprise. Sprout, a desktop computer with a 3D scanner, will be the first piece of a “3D ecosystem” HP is betting on as it looks to become a leader in consumer electronics again, VentureBeat has learned from a source with knowledge of the matter.

It might also unveil an enterprise-grade 3D printer that will hit the market in 2017.

In addition, “They’re trying to reinvent the desktop category,” the source said.

Sprout will look similar to the Spectre One, an HP all-in-one touchscreen desktop, with the scanner attached at the top, facing down onto a workspace attached to the base of the computer. It will be priced somewhere between $1,200 and $2,000 and will run on Windows 8, though early versions were on Android, according to our source.

It’s a bit reminiscent of HP’s TopShot, a printer with a 3D scanner on the top, though that product was an all-in-one scanner-printer rather than a personal computer.

But perhaps what’s most interesting about Sprout is that it almost never came to market.

The idea of Sprout originated at a printing engineer’s desk in San Diego, Calif., around the beginning of 2011, possibly a little earlier. His idea caught the eye of a marketing executive, who then started to assemble a team and get the project going.

“The Imaging and Printing leadership decided to build this, but they weren’t allowed to have a screen [a monitor] on it,” our source said. Giving it a monitor would make it a PC, making it something out of the Imaging and Printing domain.

Then in March of 2012, HP announced that its printing and personal computer divisions would merge to form the Printing and Personal Systems (PPS) group, headed by Todd Bradley. A myriad of projects got axed in the months before and after the announcement, including the original Sprout project.

So for the next year or so, the HP employees who had been working on it tried to shop it around the company, looking for new executives to take it on and breathe life back into it. Eventually, it found its way in front of HP’s board of directors, including Marc Andreessen, who apparently was impressed by the idea and technology.

Andreessen’s endorsement and encouragement gave the project a second life. A team was reassembled around the end of 2012, and the device was given a screen, making it a “personal computer” this time. HP hired Eric Monsef, formerly with Apple, and Mike Nash, formerly at Amazon and Microsoft, among other execs. HP poured about $50 million into the project in all, and “several million dollars” of that came from Intel, according to our source. In fact, the computer sports an Intel chip.

So what about the printer?

Well, over the years, HP worked on and developed a variety of 3D printing solutions, but according to our source, never truly believed in 3D printing for the consumer market; at one point, it even axed a “low-end 3D printer” in the works. The new printer has been rumored in 3D printing circles, though our source says the company has been debating whether to unveil it tomorrow. Chief executive Meg Whitman did confirm a year ago at an event in Bangkok that the company wants to enter the 3D printing market as soon at mid-2014.

The enterprise printer is really an afterthought, one to complete the idea of an ecosystem. But because it came into the picture so late, it won’t be available for quite a bit of time, according to our source.

But with that said, providing an entire ecosystem in 3D, from scanning to printing, appears to be HP’s ultimate goal.

We’ve reached out to HP and will update if we hear back.


VentureBeat's mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative technology and transact. Our site delivers essential information on data technologies and strategies to guide you as you lead your organizations. We invite you to become a member of our community, to access:
  • up-to-date information on the subjects of interest to you
  • our newsletters
  • gated thought-leader content and discounted access to our prized events, such as Transform 2021: Learn More
  • networking features, and more
Become a member