HP Aims for Home/Mobile User Market

If Bill Gates can anoint this the “Digital Decade” and Steve Jobs can declare 2003 will be the year of home/mobile user products, then Palo Alto, Calif.-based Hewlett-Packard is on the right track so far.

This week, HP unveiled several new products aimed at just such a market, beginning with the release of two new wireless-enabled notebook PCs, the Compaq Presario 2100 and the 2500 series that both come with access to T-Mobile’s extensive Wi-Fi network.

For digital music and photos users who typically store files on a PC, HP also unveiled its new HP Digital Media Receiver 5000 series, a small set-top device that circumvents the need to interact with a PC and instead enables users to browse, view, or listen to their music or photo files on a standard television or directly from a stereo via a remote control.

HP’s newest offering is part of a strategy to create products aimed at home users looking for more entertainment features than just a standard PC can offer.

In October of last year, HP partnered with Microsoft on a crossover product called the HP Media Center PC.

Based on Windows XP/Windows XP Media Center Edition, the Media Center PC was designed to merge television, stereo, and PC functionality by allowing the user to play DVDs and music CDs, manage a digital music library, and even store digitally recorded television on the PC, which is controlled by either a keyboard or a remote control.

According to HP spokesperson David Albritton, the HP Media Center PC, which has so far garnered sales beyond HP’s expectations, was aimed at the college/teenage crowd and any other individuals who live in small environments that cannot accommodate all the separate gadgetry that the Media Center combines.

Whereas the Digital Media Receiver is being marketed toward “early adopters” who already have a home entertainment network in place and merely want to enhance their ability to view and manipulate digital photography and music.

“This is the future of computing,” said Albritton. “Productivity is the mainstay for computing devices, but these days people are wanting to do more things with home entertainment, so we’re trying to create solutions that allow them to interact with their PCs in different ways.”

Slated for release in early 2003, in both wireless and wired versions, the Digital Media Receiver can access MPS and WMA music files as well as M3U, PLS and RMP playlists from jukebox software, and digital photo users can access JPEG, GIF, BMP and PNG picture files.

Using the home user’s Ethernet port or wireless 802.11b home network, the Media Receiver connects directly to the S-Video and RCA audio out and provides the user with an easily manipulated television menu for either music or photo file browsing.

The receiver, which comes with its own remote control, video and Ethernet cables, also enables users to create multimedia content by combining photo and music files on the television and stereo. There is also the option of printing content viewed on the television screen via any PC-connected printer.

The Digital Media Receiver runs on Microsoft Windows ME, XP Home or Professional operating systems.

According to HP, the wired Ethernet version will retail for an estimated $199. The combined Ethernet and Wi-Fi 802.11b version is expected to sell for around $299, the company said.

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