HP looks to enter device market

Hewlett-Packard is looking beyond the personal computer and planning to eventually make networked devices that will enable people to hook into the "information utility" of pervasive computing, Lewis Platt, HP chairman, president and CEO, said yesterday.

"Today we look at the Internet and the Web as the first step toward the information utility", which is a computing environment that is device, location and user independent, Platt said in a talk on the digital economy.

Platt envisions a future where hundreds of different types of special-purpose devices "could act together as a virtual computer" with everything else on the network.

"Hewlett-Packard is very excited about the downstream opportunity to build appliances to plug into the new utility," he said, fondling HP's CapShare, which scans up to 50 pages of information that can be downloaded into a computer through an infrared port. "We think this is the kind of appliance that will become very popular."

Platt doesn't see these new devices replacing PCs, but offering functionality that PCs don't.

"I'm not exactly predicting the demise of the PC", which he described as a "pretty crude device". Users are "a lot better off with an intuitive device".

During a question and answer session afterward, Platt said HP has suffered financially and strategically as a result of not moving quickly enough to the new Internet model of business, particularly in two areas -- marketing and distribution.

HP was slow in getting the message out that it offers "capabilities around the new e-business", and in selling online, partly because it didn't want to ruffle its existing distributors, according to Platt. "The channel has finally accepted that we have to do that."

There will be four ways HP will sell its products, he said: through retail stores and existing distribution channels; by directing Internet users to channel partners; via electronic ordering kiosks in stores; and directly to customers through the HP Web site.

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Elinor Mills

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