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Don't Say 'Tablet': HP Introduces DreamScreen

HP DreamScreen
HP DreamScreen. Click to enlarge.
Source: HP
Hewlett-Packard today introduced two new "smart screen" devices -- aimed at going a step beyond the digital picture frame with a display that includes streaming multimedia and social networking support.

Despite the thin, flat, sleek design, the new HP (NYSE: HPQ) DreamScreen models aren't a new entry in the tablet PC space, the company said. The product category remains in the limelight thanks to the long-rumored, as-yet-unconfirmed Apple "iPad" tablet PC, and entries from nontraditional players, like the CrunchPad from TechCrunch boss Michael Arrington.

While tablet PCs are meant to be mobile computation devices, the HP DreamScreen isn't meant to go anywhere. It's meant to be put in the kitchen, bedroom or living room as a consumption device.

It has no real input beyond a small remote control. There's no keyboard, no keyboard hookup and the screen is not touch-driven.

Instead, it streams content, like music, video and pictures from computers in the house, or content from the Internet, such as the online radio channel Pandora.

"This is a 'kick back and relax' device that you connect to your stereo or mini boom box to listen to music or share photos on Facebook," Ameer Karim, director of the futures and innovation group at HP, told InternetNews.com.

"The intent here is not to go after the tablet space," he said. "Think of this as a connected screen, like a connected TV, where people who go from room to room have a bunch of these screens, and these screens will evolve over time. Think of it as a platform to deploy partner services and customize it to customers' tastes. This is just the starting platform."

Thus far, the DreamScreen ships with just a few apps, and for now, you can't install any more. There is no browser for Web browsing because that would mean adding an input device -- which is not what this product is for.

So it has applets for things like viewing photos as they're updated in real-time on Facebook, listening to Pandora Internet radio and sharing personal photos on Snapfish.

The two DreamScreen models come with 2GB of memory for storing photos, music, and home movies directly on the unit, along with a USB connector and 802.11 b/g wireless networking. The built-in networking will let you drag and drop content from a networked computer onto the DreamScreen, simplifying sharing.

HP also provides an app offering streaming Internet radio. The app relies on HP's SmartRadio, which aggregates streams of live Net broadcasts from more than 15,000 radio stations around the world. Users can pick a station by location or format.

Karim said something similar to Apple's wildly successful App Store "is an area of serious consideration and investigation."

"I think people are getting more comfortable to the idea of an app store," he said. "Thanks to the iPhone, people are more welcome to it. So we are also in consideration and investigating the right ecosystem to deliver that and talking to a variety of partners on how to deliver on this architecture."

There are two models: the $249 DreamScreen 100 has a 10.2-inch display and the $299 DreamScreen 130 has a 13.3-inch screen. The screen size determines placement; the 10.2 inch unit is for nightstands, while the 13.3 inch unit is for desks or countertops. The 100 is available now through consumer retail outlets like Best Buy, while the 130 will ship this fall.