Netbook market heats up as HP jumps into the fray

HP introduces three new ultra-portable systems.

The HP Mini 1000 netbook Vivienne Tam edition

The HP Mini 1000 netbook Vivienne Tam edition

Hewlett-Packard's jump into the mini-laptop market continues this week's bubble of activity in the so-called netbook business.

HP Wednesday introduced three new ultra-portable systems, including two that carry price tags of less than US$400. All three new Minis run Intel's Atom processor.

And HP is trying a trendy look, teaming up with fashion house Vivienne Tam to design the HP Mini 1000 Vivienne Tam Edition. Dubbed the first "digital clutch," the netbook was first shown on the runway of Tam's Fall 2009 Fashion Week show in Battery Park, N.Y. The model comes in vibrant red with a peony-flower inspired design.

All three new HP netbooks are less than 1-inch thick, have a starting weight of a little more than 2 pounds and a keyboard that is 92% the size of a standard laptop keyboard.

The netbook market continues to heat up with two other vendors releasing new ultra-portables this week.

On Tuesday, Lenovo Group, Ltd. announced a low-cost netbook for the education market. The IdeaPad S10e netbook is designed for students in K-12, as well as those in college. Weighing in at less than 3 pounds, the netbook runs Microsoft Windows XP Home or SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop from Novell.

And Dell unveiled its netbook earlier this week. The Inspiron Mini 12, a more powerful version of Dell's Inspiron Mini 9, is available in Japan and is slated to launch globally next month. With a starting price below $600, the Mini 12 supports the Windows Vista, Ubuntu Linux and Windows XP operating systems.

Gartner noted in a report released earlier this month that HP lags behind some rivals in the netbook market and will have to move quickly to make up for its slow entry into this ultra-portable arena with more and better offerings.

HP leads all other PC makers in terms of overall worldwide PC shipments and comes in second to rival Dell in the US market. But since Gartner reported that the mini-laptop market is the only reason the overall PC market didn't take a fall in this rocky economy, analysts are looking for HP to make more of a move with the netbooks.

"Staying connected to your world -- however you define it -- is increasingly important to people on the go," said Ted Clark, senior vice president and general manager at HP, in a statement. "That's why HP is excited to address this new high-growth market with a portfolio of head-turning mini companion PCs that are fun and easy to use."

The HP Mini 1000, available now, runs Microsoft's Windows XP operating system and has a starting price of US$399.

The HP Mini 1000 Vivienne Tam Edition, slated to ship in December, also runs on Windows XP and is priced at US$699.

The HP Mini 1000 with MIE (Mobile Internet Experience) uses the Linux operating system and is due to ship in the US this January. It has a starting price of US$379.

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