RealTime IT News

HP's iPod Leads Product Rush

With its enterprise division still reeling from its financial woes, HP announced today 25 new consumer products it hopes will reinvigorate its brand.

As part of its Big Bang II Fall 2004 announcement in Florida, HP is celebrating some firsts. The company will make and market a suite of plasma and LCD flat-panel TVs, as well as a digital home theater projector. And its long-awaited version of the Apple iPod is almost upon us.

As previously reported, HP has adopted Apple's fourth-generation iPod, which comes in 20GB and 40GB versions. HP also adopted Apple's price tags of $299 and $399, respectively, even though HP is distinguishing its digital music players from the original stark white design with the addition of some customizable casings -- or "tattoos."

HP's new lineup also includes devices to link up its version of the digital home. The company's Digital Entertainment Center manages music, movies and photos from a single device. The HP Pavilion dv1000 series Entertainment Notebook PC, with QuickPlay feature, lets consumers watch DVDs or listen to music without booting up. Rounding out HP's dream home are the four flat-panel displays, including a 42-inch HDTV Plasma, a 42-inch EDTV Plasma, and two LCD TVs (26-inch and 30-inch), on which content can be viewed.

Not to abandon its lucrative printing business, HP introduced a new 4.1-megapixel digital camera, a new toaster-sized photo printer for the popular sized 4x6-inch prints and an array of new multi-cartridge inks, cartridges, media and printers. Most of the items are ready to ship with some being held back to gauge demand.

HP CEO Carly Fiorina discussed most of the items during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas earlier this year.

"At the [CES] in January, we said the real digital revolution was not just about gizmos and gadgets; it was about making the whole system work better together," Fiorina said in a statement. "Our customers have told us they want to easily share, enjoy and preserve their personal experiences -- whether those experiences are photos, music or video."

Of the products internetnews.com looked at, very few are designed to compete directly with the likes of Dell , and fewer still are expected to show up in the enterprise outside of the small and home-office realm.

For example, the HP Instant Cinema Digital Projector ep9010 is a boom box-like device for playing and watching movies. The prototype we viewed during a briefing was attractive with its space-age curved design, but it was heavy and ran loud and hot. HP said it wanted to start off with the consumer version first before streamlining it for the enterprise. Even so, sales teams would probably love to get their hands on something like this because of its multi-media capabilities.

But HP is taking its partnerships very seriously. Siobhan O'Connor, HP vice president of brand communications for consumer products, told internetnews.com that leading brands in search of marketing opportunities have approached the company.

In addition to its deal with T-Mobile to bring Wi-Fi to Starbucks; its back-end work with DreamWorks' Shrek movies; and its partnership with Walt Disney to design its "Mission to Space" attraction in Florida, HP is open to other ways to extend its home experience beyond the home.

One idea being tested in San Francisco and elsewhere includes kiosks at Fairmont Hotel locations where tourists can rent a digital camera for the day and later print 10 of their favorite photos on HP equipment that same day.

"We're learning a lot from our partners and what kinds of experiences they are looking for," O'Connor said. "Ultimately, what we are all interested in is reaching consumers where they are."