CES: HP aims TouchSmart desktop PC at businesses

Company offers support option not available on consumer systems

Hewlett-Packard Co. today unveiled an all-in-one touch-screen-enabled desktop for businesses and large organizations, extending its growing line of TouchSmart PCs.

The new dx9000, introduced at the 2009 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, is a rebranded version of HP's TouchSmart IQ504t computer with a slightly faster processor, the same 22-in. LCD touch screen and a higher starting price ($1,399 versus $1,149), according to Kirk Godkin, North American manager for business desktop PCs at HP.

HP first introduced TouchSmart desktop models for consumers at the CES show two years ago.

HP also offers a TouchSmart consumer laptop, the tx2, which it released in November.

HP's TouchSmart PC
HP's TouchSmart PC, its all-in-one touchscreen-enabled desktop computer.

HP thinks the new dx9000 could appeal to a wide range of businesses.

"Style is definitely becoming important, whether you are a small business or a big corporation," he said. While he conceded that the appeal of Apple's Macintosh computers has captured the heart of many consumers, especially younger ones, Godkin said that he hopes that the dx9000 can prove "to be the business PC you want to date -- and marry."

HP is offering a business service and support package for the dx9000. The package is not available for the four TouchSmart desktop models for consumers.

Godkin said the new model could also appeal to elementary schools seeking an easy-to-use PC for students in early grades, or a wall-mountable information kiosk-type device for parents and visitors.

Hotels looking to offer a stylish PC for guests to use in lobbies or upscale suites should also look at the new model, he said. Besides adding a "sexy and modern look-and-feel," the dx9000 has the advantage of being more conspicuous than a laptop if someone tries to steal it, said Godkin.

HP is the only major PC vendor to launch touch-screen PCs ahead of the release of Microsoft Windows 7, which is expected to bring sophisticated multitouch touch-screen capabilities.

Richard Shim, an analyst at IDC, thinks touch-screen PCs have a lot of potential.

"It makes a lot of sense," he said. "When you're trying to mouse across a 25-in. screen, it can get annoying when have to pick up your mouse three times because you keep running out of desk."

Unlike another long-talked-about interface technology -- voice commands -- a touch screen doesn't require a significant boost in PC processing power, said Shim. And touch screens are inherently very intuitive, he added.

One problem for vendors like HP is that "the full potential won't be realized until there are a lot of apps built for touch screens," he said, and that is unlikely to happen until Windows 7 ships, likely at the end of 2009 or early 2010.

Godkin disagreed, citing several hotel and education applications that already work on the TouchSmart systems. And, he argued, there is also a substantial pool of touch applications written for specialty kiosk hardware that can be ported over to the TouchSmart.

The dx9000 TouchSmart system has a 2.26-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, versus the IQ 504t's 2.0-GHz one. Both have 320GB hard drives and webcams. The new system runs Windows Vista Business while its consumer cousin runs Vista Home Premium.

Godkin acknowledged that the dx9000, like other TouchSmart desktops, uses touch-screen technology from NextWindow Ltd., which relies on infrared-enabled overlays on top of a conventional LCD screen, making it cheaper and less sensitive than capacitive screens used on the TouchSmart laptop and on smart phones like the iPhone, BlackBerry Storm and G1.

Godkin promised that HP is "definitely working on much more multitouch capabilities" to add to TouchScreen desktop systems, but declined to provide details of the company's plans.

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