HP to launch new notebooks, mobile devices

Hewlett-Packard (HP) will introduce two new notebooks Wednesday at CeBIT America, as it prepares several new mobile products for the second half of the year.

The company wants to lead the market for notebooks, which is one of the few segments showing "robust" growth said Kevin Frost, vice president of worldwide marketing for HP's notebook business unit. In addition to Wednesday's announcement, HP plans to launch new mobile products in August, and will make an announcement in September about mobile and wireless printing, Frost said.

HP also plans to launch several new iPaq models next week in conjunction with Microsoft's Pocket PC 2003 launch next Monday, sources said last week.

Worldwide, HP leads all vendors in notebook shipments with 15.9 percent market share, just ahead of rival Dell Computer's 14.5 percent and Toshiba's 14.3 percent share, according to data from IDC. While notebooks have been a bright spot among PC sales to corporations, shipment growth to businesses is still flat overall, as compared to strong notebook growth found in the consumer market, said Matt Sargent, director of research for ARS.

HP's new nc4000 notebook weighs only 3.5 pounds (1.58 kilograms), and is targeted at business customers who travel often, Frost said. It comes with Intel's Pentium M processor, but uses wireless technology from Atheros Communications.

Customers can opt for a trimode wireless chip that connects to three wireless Internet standards currently in use, 802.11b, 802.11a, and 802.11g. The notebook comes without a wireless chip in its base configuration, and customers can also select a 802.11b/802.11g chip from Atheros as another option.

Making the wireless chip an option gives HP an advantage over rivals such as Dell among corporate customers, Sargent said. Dell's Latitude D400 comes with wireless as a standard option. Customers can purchase a D400 without the wireless technology, but there is no price benefit in doing so, he said.

There are more corporate IT managers who don't want to support wireless notebooks right now than those who do, Sargent said. The holdouts fear a raft of unsecured wireless networks spreading throughout their organizations, he said.

By offering a price break to customers who don't want wireless, HP can offer a notebook more in line with Dell's aggressive price structure, Sargent said. A base configuration of the nc4000 with a 1.4GHz Pentium M processor, 256M bytes of DDR (double data rate) SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM), a 40G-byte hard drive, and a 12.1-inch display costs US$1,699. Dell's D400 is priced at $1,499 in a base configuration with less memory and a smaller hard drive.

The other new notebook, the nx7000, is designed more for the occasional traveler, or small to medium-size businesses, Frost said. It is based on Intel's Centrino package of chips, with the Pentium M processor, an Intel chipset, and the company's Pro/Wireless 2100 chip for 802.11b networks. For now, HP is offering this notebook just with Intel's 802.11b technology, but Intel is expected to release both an 802.11g chip and a trimode version later this year, and HP will build that capability into the nx7000 as it becomes available, Frost said.

This notebook also comes with a 15.4-inch widescreen display, which offers 20 percent more viewing area than a conventional display of that size, and also takes up less space on an airplane tray, Frost said. Widescreen displays are becoming more popular among notebook buyers, and Apple Computer and HP have released widescreen notebooks earlier this year.

A base configuration with a 1.4GHz Pentium M, 512M bytes of DDR SDRAM, a 40G-byte hard drive, and a DVD-ROM drive is priced at $1,699.

Both notebooks are currently available through HP's Web site, and will soon be available worldwide through channel partners, Frost said.

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