Hewlett-Packard Co. launched its first touch-enabled netbook on Wednesday, as well as a successor to its first-generation TouchSmart convertible tablet/laptop.
The big news may be coming later, though. HP and Microsoft Corp. are co-developing Microsoft's 'Courier' tablet PC, The New York Times reported, citing unnamed sources. The newspaper said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will unveil the tablet during his keynote speech at CES this evening, beating Apple Inc.'s much-rumored tablet to a full public unveiling.
Aimed at businesspeople, the new Mini 5102 is the first HP netbook to include a touch screen with two-finger capacitive touch technology. That is the same technology as other laptops running the touch-enabled Windows 7operating system. Asus was the first to launch a touch-enabled netbook, unveiling its Eee T91 in June.
The Mini 5102 comes withIntel Corp.'s latest improved Atom N450 or N470 processors. The 2.64 pound, 0.91 inch-thick Mini 5102 has a 95%-of-standard-laptop-sized keyboard with flat, wide-spaced keys (i.e. the "island-style" keyboard).
Replacing the 6-month-old Mini 5101, the new Mini 5102 also comes with:
* 2 megapixel Webcam with face recognition for fast log-in;
* Aluminum/magnesium case in choice of three colors;
* 10-inch LED screen with 1024x600 or 1366x768 resolution;
* Optional Broadcom HD video accelerator that is roughly equivalent to Nvidia's ION graphics chip;
* Up to 2 GB of RAM;
* Free full copy of Corel Home Office;
* And choice of up to 320 GB SATA hard disks or up to 128 GB SSDs.
The Mini 5102 starts at $399, though options will boost prices into the $600 range, or the same as bigger, higher-powered laptops.
Meanwhile, the updated TouchSmart tm2 also comes with a finger-friendly capacitive touch screen. It weighs 4.8 pounds, has the same brushed aluminum finish as HP's Envy lineof notebooks, and up to 9.5 hours of battery life.
It starts at $949 and comes with low-voltageIntel Core 2 Duo processors and optional ATI Mobility Radeon discrete graphics. New touch apps bundled with the TouchSmart include a photo library app called BumpTop, an interactive 3-D screensaver, and a painting app called Corel Paint it! Touch. It also includes touch-enabled versions of Hulu, Netflix and Twitter that HP introduced in October.
Some analysts have argued that netbooks are on the way out, to be replaced in 2010 by a wave of re-invented tablet computers.
Independent analyst Jack Gold is one of those who still harbors doubts.
He said HP's approach -- offering a keyboard and a touch screen together in the same package -- makes more sense.
"What does a tablet really buy me if I'm going to be on the keyboard most of the time?" he said.
Besides the 5102, HP announced two other netbooks, neither of them with touch. The Mini 2102 starts at $329. It also comes with either the N450 or N470 chip, the latter of which runs at up to 1.83 GHz. It lacks the 5102's choice in colors, SSD drives and options for sharper-resolution screen or Broadcom-enabled video. And in terms of Microsoft operating systems, it comes in only Windows 7 Starter or Windows XP Home (it still can come with Suse Linux or FreeDOS).
The lowest-end offering is the Compaq Mini 102. For $299, it comes with Intel's N270 1.6 GHz processor, popular on netbooks in 2007 and 2008, up to 1 GB of RAM, a 160 GB SATA drive or 16 GB SSD, 1024x600 10-inch LED screen, and slightly smaller keyboard. It comes in four colors and weighs as little as 2.35 pounds.
Eric Lai covers Windows and Linux, desktop applications, databases and business intelligence for Computerworld. Follow Eric on Twitter Twitter@ericylai, send e-mail at email@example.com or subscribe to Eric's RSS feed Lai RSS.
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This story, "HP Unveils Touch Netbook, Plans to Show Tablet at CES" was originally published by Computerworld.