(Bloomberg News) -- Last year, Hewlett-Packard announced it was working on a new type of computer designed to be superfast, low-power, and capable of replacing a data center’s worth of equipment with one fridge-size box. Dubbed the Machine, the project would combine advanced research from throughout HP’s divisions, the company said, and if each hit its ambitious goals, the Machine could essentially replace today’s standard computer designs. The job sounded tough even before HP said a few months later that it planned to split down the middle, creating one company that sells business hardware and software while the other focuses on consumer PCs and printers.

The Machine is supposed to be ready in 2017 at the earliest, and HP has set a Nov. 1 target for the split. So Chief Technology Officer Martin Fink has drawn up a deal between the two companies that will allow the engineers working on the project to continue collaborating, even though they’ll be working for separate entities. At the same time, the engineers have had to rethink some pieces of the project. Instead of building a brand-new operating system for the Machine right away, they’re first working to customize the free Linux OS and see how far it can take them, Fink says. When the first prototype is completed next year, “there’ll be some ugly spots,” says Kirk Bresniker, chief architect at HP Labs, the company’s research and development arm, which is leading work on the Machine. “I just want something that you can demonstrate and prove is on the right track.”

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