One wag on Google+ lampoons HP's milking of its traditional printer ink cartridges saying:
"HP could put PLA filament in a proprietary cartridge design with a feedback path to check "filament level". File 200+ patent disclosures on this innovation. Aggressively market cheap calibrated printers using this very expensive consumable filament cartridge."
Cube 3d printers took a page from HP's book and implemented a cartridge system, forcing you to buy your material from them. It is a cruddy move for sure and many people have found ways to bypass it, just like they have the HP cartridge sensors.
HP has a ton of experience in the printing world and could possibly bring lower cost, higher quality printers to the market. I'm not sure where they fall in the patent minefield, or how much they are willing to invest, but it seems like they have the leverage to step beyond a tiny improvement in FDM quality.
For HP to have a chance in this market, it will require them to purchase a company that is currently in the 3D printer business. HP's HW engineering talent pool has been depleted over the last several years as they have outsourced a majority of that work, and to enter a new market with any sort of chance will require in house engineers.
I have no idea! I can tell you that I see new companies putting out consumer 3d printers every day. It may not be huge like the cell phone market but new companies appearing with the frequency I see them tells me that it is trending upward quickly.
FWIW at an event last week I ran into a new 3-D printer maker out of the Netherlands called LeapFrog. They claim faster, finer printing for sub-$2,000 , 12.4 liter max volume, 0.05 mm positioning accuracy, just opened a US office.