HP TouchSmart PCs get touch-enabled Hulu, Netflix and Twitter

Reinforcing its lead in the nascent touchscreen PC market, Hewlett-Packard Co. announced three new touch-enabled Windows 7 PCs on Tuesday, including two all-in-one desktops that let users control Web videos from Hulu and Netflix by tapping on the screen.

New HP TouchSmart PCs get touch-enabled Hulu, Netflix and Twitter

The TouchSmart 300, with 20-inch LCD screen, and TouchSmart 600, 23-inch screen, also come with small Windows 7 applications that let owners navigate Web services such as Twitter and two streaming music providers, HP Music Store by Rhapsody from RealNetworks Inc. and Pandora Internet radio.

All of the applications, except for Pandora's touch app, are exclusive to HP's TouchSmart 3.0 software suite.

The TouchSmart 300 will start at $899, and the 600 will start at $1,049. They will be available on Nov. 1 and Oct. 22, respectively. The official release of Windows 7 is slated for Oct. 22.

The TouchSmart 600 can be connected to an Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 or Wii game console via its HDMI or composite video inputs so that users can play games on its 23-inch screen.

HP also launched the TouchSmart 9100, a 23-inch touch-enabled all-in-one PC for business use. Aimed at hotels, stores, hospitals and schools, the 9100 starts at $1,299 and is expected to be available in December.

Similar to the TouchSmart 600 on specs, the 9100 also includes Firewire ports for connecting digital video cameras, and the ability to lock down USB ports for more security.

The 9100 replaces the dx9000, which was launched at CES earlier this year.

HP's new TouchSmart 600 allows touch-based Twitter and streaming video.HP also released an updated TouchSmart tx2 convertible laptop/tablet PC, which it first released a year ago. The new model comes with faster components and now starts at $799.

Finally, the company released a 42-inch touchscreen LCD display for businesses that is designed for digital signage. The LD4200tm comes with 1080p (1,920 x 1080) resolution and will ship starting in December for $2,799.

Time right for touchscreens?

Hewlett-Packard released its first touch-enabled computer more than a quarter century ago, releasing the HP 150 in 1983 (see YouTube video.)

More recently, HP was the first major PC vendor to release touchscreen-enabled PCs at CES 2007, with its Vista-enabled TouchSmart IQ770 all-in-one and Pavilion tx1000 notebook.

HP had to create the touchscreen infrastructure as well as write the apps running on top of it. With the release of Windows 7's multi-touch Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), HP can focus its efforts on writing apps.

"Windows 7 is now our plumbing," said Kirk Godkin, a manager for business PCs in HP's Personal Systems Group.

These latest TouchSmart PCs will come with a total of 20 touch-enabled applications as part of the TouchSmart 3.0 suite.

HPs development on touch-based apps is key, because while Windows 7 and its components are touch-enabled, there are few apps that have been written to take advantage of Windows 7's touch features so far.

Existing owners of TouchSmart PCs can get touch versions of Hulu and Twitter by upgrading to TouchSmart 3.0, though they must upgrade to Windows 7 first.

For Americans and others living in large homes, HP thinks its TouchSmarts can catch on in the kitchen. It is including a voice-enabled app called RecipeBox that lets users clip and hear recipes.

Users make voice commands via a Bluetooth headset, through which they can also hear a list of ingredients read off to them. That allows them to avoid a mess typing on keyboard or screen with sticky fingers, says Mindy Fournier, world-wide product manager for HP's all-in-one PCs.

Not everyone is convinced the time is right for touch PCs. Jack Gold, an independent analyst, said he thinks HP's TouchSmarts will catch on fastest among dorm-dwelling students and apartment-dwelling urbanites.

For them, he said, all-in-one PCs with strong media center capabilities and smallish screens make sense. Otherwise, Gold said he remains unconvinced that touch PCs are anything other than the latest "in-fashion."

"The regular keyboard and mouse is still the most satisfying experience," Gold said.

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