PCs Face The Future at CES
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UPDATED: Lenovo, which burst on the U.S. computer scene with its blockbuster purchase of IBM's PC business a few years ago, is expanding beyond business customers to consumers with the release of new systems.
Lenovo's new lines, called "Idea", were announced today ahead of next week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Every major PC maker is expected to show off new consumer-oriented PCs and notebooks.
HP also jumped the gun by announcing new PCs today, too.
Lenovo's IdeaPad and IdeaCentre desktops are the consumer cousins of Lenovo's well-established ThinkCentre and ThinkPad lines for business. But a trio of IdeaPads, starting at $799, will offer some unique features.
Perhaps most notable is VeriFace for facial recognition. The VeriFace software and the embedded IdeaPad camera recognizes a user's face and automates the log in to the computer as well as to various applications that require passwords.
"Lenovo's a new player in the consumer space, and the facial recognition feature is a nice way for them to break out of the crowd -- no one else has it," IDC analyst Richard Shim told InternetNews.com. "It's a nice convenience to simplify the login and these are the kinds of things PC companies need to do more of. It's not about speeds and feeds anymore, it's about design and the user experience."
Lenovo is the biggest provider of fingerprint recognition offered in its ThinkPad line. But Craig Merrigan, Lenovo's vice president of global consumer marketing, said the company wanted to offer something "clever and cool" and less complicated for a consumer security solution.
"You just sit in front of the screen and your face becomes your password, letting you in immediately," he told InternetNews.com. The facial recognition can also be configured to allow multiple users or to lock up when you go away to keep out unauthorized users. Standard password entry can also be enabled as an alternative.
The Intel Centrino-based IdeaPads also have a distinctive "frameless" display, Dolby Home Theatre surround sound and dedicated gaming controls.
One member of the IdeaPad, the U110, is an "ultraportable" that weighs only 2.3 pounds with an 11-inch widescreen display. Not available until April, the U110 also works with an optional solid state flash drive. The other two IdeaPads, the Y710 and Y510, feature 17- and 15-inch widescreens respectively.
According to IDC, the consumer market represents about 40 percent of all PCs sold.
HP slims down
HP also launched a new line of PCs and notebooks but of course the computer giant is already firmly established as a leading provider in both business and consumer sectors.
The new HP Pavilion Slimline s3330f PC is about one-third the size of a conventional tower PC and will likely appeal to media buffs with such features as a Blu-Ray and HD-DVD player and TV tuner. An NVIDIA GeForce 8500 card with HDMI port allows consumers to connect the Slimline s3330f to high-definition TVs or play the latest directX10 games in a system priced at $949.
IDC's Shim said small is a big idea for 2008. "When it comes to desktops, smaller is the future," said Shim. "In the past it was bigger equaled more powerful, but now consumers see bigger as meaning louder and an eyesore. The exception is gaming where expansion capability and power continues to be in demand."
HP's new consumer PC
At the higher end of home entertainment PCs, HP's Pavilion Elite m9100 is a powerhouse series that uses Microsoft's 64-bit edition of Vista Home Premium, 4 GB of memory and Intel's Quad Core processor. Pricing starts at $1,159.
Leveraging its expertise in digital imaging, HP is also offering a PC designed for photo enthusiasts. The Pavilion a6330f PC includes a 500 GB hard drive that stores up to 218,000 photos and HP's Photosmart Essential to organize, edit, share and protect digital images. The HP Pocket Media Drive bay allows for optional additional storage, and the front-panel 15-in-1 memory card reader is designed to simplify transferring photos and files to and from a digital camera and other devices.
HP is also bowing the Pavilion tx2000 Series Entertainment Notebook PC. The tx2000 includes handwriting capture and touch-screen capability with a 12.1-inch diagonal touch-screen display that rotates 180 degrees and folds flat as well as a built-in digitizer.
The built-in HP Webcam and integrated microphone can be used, among other applications, for live video chat. The HP Pavilion tx2000 series Notebook PC is available for an estimated U.S. street price of $1,299, depending on configuration.
A higher end notebook, HP's Pavilion HDX series (starting at $1,999.99), is designed to provide a portable home theater experience, with 512 MB NVIDIA GeForce 8800M GTS video graphics and the latest Intel Core 2 Extreme and Intel Core 2 Duo processors. The HDX also includes Blu-ray and HD DVD support and offers what HP said is the first 20.1-inch diagonal WUXGA XHD Ultra Brightview display.