HP made another move into the mini-laptop, or netbook, market today, unveiling three models priced from $379-$699.
The new mini-laptops will ship between today and January, and have the same basic hardware specs: they are each less than 1 inch thick, weigh a little over 2 pounds, and come with a built-in web cam and microphone. They're powered by an Atom 1.6 GHz processor (the netbook processor of choice) and have a 1024-by-600 glass display with an LED backlight (8.9 or 10.2 inch diagonal display), an Ethernet jack, 2 USB ports, Wi-Fi ( 802.11bg WAN) and Bluetooth wireless capabilities, and a keyboard that is slightly smaller than standard size. You also have your choice of a solid state hard drive (SSD) or mechanical hard drive (HDD).
The first model available today is called the HP Mini 1000; it comes in black only, runs XP Home Edition and is priced at $399. (See PC World's review) The second model, available mid-December, had its shell designed by fashionista Vivienne Tam and the look was debuted in New York last month when Tam unveiled her Spring collection. But if you want a designer netbook you'd better be prepared to pay designer prices; this one will cost you $699 for almost the same specs as the Mini 1000. HP plans to roll out 3G option for both of these models in December. There's no word on whether the memory is the same for both netbooks, but the Mini 1000 currently offers an 8 or 16 GB SSD drive or a 60 GB HDD.
The final model is by far the most interesting one that HP has to offer. Priced at $379, the HP Mini 1000 with MIE (Mobile Internet Experience) is about as pure a netbook as you can get with web-only applications designed by HP. Boasting the same specs as the other two, the Mini with MIE runs the open source Linux Operating System and comes pre-loaded with Skype as well as applications for Instant Messaging, e-mail, music, and web browsing. Don't get too excited, though -- the mini MIE won't be available in the U.S. until after the holiday season, sometime in January. HP has no plans to introduce a 3G model for the MIE.
All three models are configure to order, so specs on RAM and memory are up to you.
This is HP's second move into the netbook market after it unveiled its 2133 in April; however, the 2133 was basically a mini-laptop that you could preload with Windows Vista instead of the Web-centric devices the company launched today.
Ever since Western consumers expressed interest in the One Laptop Per Child's XO laptop -- which launched in 2007 and is aimed at children in the developing world -- we've seen an explosion of netbooks from traditional PC makers. Just in the last week, Dell unveiled its Inspiron mini 12 after months of speculation, and Toshiba launched its first netbook in Japan and Europe (but with no plans for the U.S. market). As the global economy begins to slow, netbooks may become the laptop of choice for many consumers and computer makers are jumping in with both feet even as they slash prices on traditional notebooks. The holdout, of course, is Apple, which recently introduced the newest versions of its popular MacBooks. However, Jobs recently argued that Apple already had two devices that compete with netbook capabilities: the iPhone and the iPod Touch.