HP gives thin-client treatment to Passport Internet monitor

The Passport Internet monitor is a thin client slapped on to an all-in-one

Hewlett-Packard has given a twist to the traditional all-in-one PC design with a new thin client it calls an "Internet monitor" that started shipping on Thursday and is designed to access services on the Internet.

The HP Passport 1912NM Internet Monitor has an 18.5-inch display and a few components to facilitate quick access to the Internet. Once the thin client is fired up, users can access Web services like Google Docs or watch videos through a browser.

The Passport has no internal storage or high-end processor, limiting its use to Internet access. The Linux-based operating system is locked down, so users cannot upload or install programs. The device has a Texas Instruments OMAP4430 smartphone chip, five USB ports, a media card reader and an Ethernet port. The monitor displays images at a 1366-by-768-pixel resolution.

Thumb drives can be plugged into the USB ports to access files. The Passport has a speaker, so high-quality videos can be viewed from the Internet or a flash drive.

The Passport has a Mozilla Firefox 4.0 browser and supports Adobe Flash 10.1. Both are old versions -- the latest version of Firefox is 13.0.1 and Adobe has announced Flash Player 11.3.

The device is targeted at customers who do most of their computing on the Internet, said Jim Christensen, a spokesman for HP. The Passport is not designed for homes, but for places like Internet cafés, libraries or schools.

"It's a cloud monitor, an Internet monitor. I wouldn't call it a PC," Christensen said.

At the same time, the company is testing the waters of where a product like Passport could go.

"This is the first generation, we will see how it does," Christensen said.

In some ways, Passport is similar to Chromebooks from Samsung and Acer running on Google's Chrome OS. The netbooks offer minimal storage compared to standard laptops and are designed for those who access Web-based services through a browser.

Unlike Chromebooks, Passport does not have Wi-Fi or 3G mobile broadband connectivity.

The Passport is priced at US$259 and is available now in the U.S. The company has not decided whether to make it available worldwide.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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