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9/7/2011
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HP Updates PC Lineup For SMBs

Despite speculation that it might get out of the PC business, HP unveils two all-in-one desktop computers aimed at smaller businesses.

On the heels of speculation about the future of its PC division and other strategic changes, HP has unveiled an updated lineup of desktops aimed at smaller businesses.

In the process, the tech giant is making a bigger bet on the all-in-one design, citing increasing popularity of the form factor in its announcement. Both the HP TouchSmart Elite 7320 and HP Pro 3420 are all-in-one desktops aimed at smaller businesses. They join the HP 8200 Elite for midmarket firms and large enterprises, announced in August. Dell, HP's chief competitor for SMB PC budgets, has also suggested increasing demand for the form factor, adding an all-in-one to its Vostro lineup earlier this year.

In the midst of much discussion about a "post-PC era," SMBs are still buying desktops and laptops--at least this year--even as their tablet adoption grows. Analysys Mason analyst Steve Hilton notes the all-in-one design could appeal as something of middle ground between high-end tablet and traditional PC.

"If you're an SMB that is limited by space or likes the tablet-esque idea but doesn't want to spend money on true tablets, then an all-in-one PC is a good idea," Hilton said via email.

In announcing its new-look lineup, HP sounds committed to the PC in spite of recent comments about a possible spin-off or sale of its Personal Systems Group. "We continue to expand our portfolio to remain the global leader in Windows-based all-in-one PCs, introducing innovation that matters to business customers and consumers alike," said Todd Bradley, executive vice president of HP's Personal Systems Group, in a statement. HP also announced updates to its consumer PC lineup.

The lingering question: Do the winds of change at HP signal that SMBs should tread cautiously? Hilton doesn't think so, noting that no matter how things shake out it's not like the world's largest technology company is suddenly going to disappear.

"I think it's fine for an SMB to invest in an HP device," Hilton said. "I do not believe HP is going to fold up shop and go out of business, if that's a concern."

That's echoed by Techaisle CEO Anurag Agrawal, who said the message he's hearing lately from Personal Systems Group executives is: "Business as usual." Likewise, a potential spin-off or other transaction isn't a foregone conclusion. "It's not a done deal," Agrawal said in an interview.

Still, Agrawal thinks that earlier comments from HP could tempt some SMBs to at least consider other options the next time they refresh their PC portfolio. And while he notes that the all-in-one is indeed a general industry trend, he said the form factor not a given for all SMB use cases. Agrawal and Techaisle senior analyst Paolo Puppoli both said it makes the most sense in certain verticals and front-office roles where appearance matters, but not necessarily in traditional back-office uses.

"For the run-of-the-mill Excel-type applications and sales presentations, [all-in-ones] are not the most functional solution," Puppoli said in an interview. "They do have a niche."

The Touchsmart Elite 7320 features a 21.5-inch touch-screen monitor and will start at $850 when it goes on sale later this month. The Pro 3420 is expected to hit the market in October with a $599 starting price; it has a 20-inch display and touts up to 8 GB of RAM and 2 TB of storage space. Both models run on Intel Core i3/i5/i7 processors.

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