HP Performs A PC Desktop Makeover - InformationWeek

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HP Performs A PC Desktop Makeover

New Pavilion and Compaq lines include lower prices and digital entertainment packages.

Hewlett-Packard on Wednesday revamped its Pavilion and Compaq consumer desktops, transforming them into new lines of stylish PCs made to complement the buyer's living-room decor.

The line-up includes the HP Pavilion s3000 Series Slimline PC, which is less than a third the size of a regular PC. Other additions included the HP Pavilion a6000 Series Desktop, geared for working with digital photos and video; and the HP Pavilion Media Center TV m8000 Series Desktop, which HP bills as the "ultimate digital entertainment" PC for watching TV and video, listening to music and viewing photos. On the Compaq side, HP performed a makeover on the Presario sr5000nx series.

Pricing for the new systems range from $299 to $849, which may or may not include a monitor. HP displays start at $169.

The new Pavilion PCs feature a high-gloss black finish, and the Presario a high-gloss graphite finish. Matching monitors are also available to complete the systems' good looks. That's important as HP, and rival computer makers, fight for a place within people's home entertainment systems, which are often found in living rooms. "Design was more important last year, than the year before, and it's twice as important this year than last year," Samir Bhavnani, analyst for Current Analysis, said.

The design trend started with notebooks. As the number of people carrying the devices increased, the demand for stylish portable PCs also rose, Bhavnani said. This demand gradually filtered to desktops, and has grown as people look to PCs as possible media hubs for feeding video, movies or photos to a TV set, and music to a stereo system. "HP realized early on that the more attractive your industrial design, the better chance you have of differentiating yourself from the competition in a commoditized market," Bhavnani said.

In terms of design, Sony and Apple are at the top, followed by HP and Toshiba, Bhavnani said. Gateway is in the third-tier, with Acer and Dell at the bottom rung.

The Pavilion Media Center TV m8000 reflects HP's shift from expensive digital entertainment centers to relatively inexpensive media PCs. The company in March said it would discontinue its high-priced Digital Entertainment Center, a high-powered computer for storing and managing all forms of media. The DEC, introduced in 2004, looked like a set-top box, had a remote control, and offered Dolby surround sound. With a starting price of $1,800, however, the device failed in retail stores.

"Retail was probably premature at the time, given that it was sold at a high price point and with lots of features," Ameer Karim, director of global product marketing for digital entertainment products at HP, told InformationWeek in a recent interview. "Consumers were a little challenged as to why they needed a box like that."

Fast-forward to 2007, and the market has a lot more devices capable of delivering electronic media to home stereos and TVs, everything from set-top boxes and videogame consoles to PCs. "There's a lot of activity going on in the living room," Karim said. "Everyone is trying to come in from a different angle."

HP's angle is from the PC. Rather than offer products like the DEC, HP is now focused on relatively inexpensive computers that consumers can buy at the corner retailer, install at home, and then sit down to watch the next episode of "Lost," or "American Idol." "It's all about instant gratification," Karim said.

Along with the new desktops, HP also offers matching monitors in three sizes: 19-inches, 20-inches and 22-inches. On the mobile side of the style-conscious portfolio, HP introduced in March the Pavilion tx1000, a touch-screen tablet PC that features curved edges, and a piano-black glossy finish.

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