HP's New PCs: Everything But The Kitchen Sink

Wide variety of new hardware means HP is either adapting to consumer preferences -- or struggling to decide what will resonate.

Michael Endler, Associate Editor, InformationWeek.com

May 23, 2013

4 Min Read

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HP reported quarterly earnings on Wednesday that beat Wall Street expectations, despite drops in revenue and net income, and a PC business that continues to hemorrhage cash.

Undaunted by the shaky computer sales, the company also used Wednesday to launch a fleet of new PC offerings, including traditionally minded and budget-priced desktop towers, a range of low-cost touchscreen laptops, and a 20-inch, supersized tablet that will feature Intel's next-gen Haswell processor. Reduced prices and new chips are among the factors that could help Windows 8, which has underachieved so far, rebound later this year. The expected debut of Windows 8.1, arguably the most important of these factors, is still more than a month away, but HP's announcements offer consumers their first sense of whether the next wave of Win8 machines will be more appealing than the first.

HP's new tablet is called the Envy Rove, and it's not exactly the device most people have envisioned when discussing Haswell. Intel claims its new processors will deliver the biggest generation-over-generation improvement in power management that the company has ever achieved. To many, this improvement should translate into Win8 devices that are not only faster, thinner and lighter than current models, but that also boast dramatically improved graphics performance and battery life.

At more than 5 kilograms, thin and light aren't part of the Rove's agenda -- but that's because its use cases are geared toward short-range versatility and portability, not the unfettered mobility of smaller tablets. When desired, the device, which includes 1 TB of storage, can be docked as an all-in-one PC, somewhat like Apple's iMac. But it can also, thanks to a three-hour battery life, be easily moved around the house or office. This flexibility could position the device as a family entertainment center; it can be laid flat, for example, so users can play digital board games, including Monopoly, which will come pre-loaded.

[ Looking to get more productive with your new hardware? See 8 Free, Must-Have Windows 8 Apps. ]

The Rove clearly isn't right for everyone -- but in a sense, that might be the point. Tablets haven't killed the PC, despite some overinflated claims to the contrary. Rather, they've pushed consumer choice to unprecedented levels, and in so doing, expanded the definition of computing devices. Some people still need desktops, but for others a tablet, or even a smartphone, is adequate for most needs. As people start to tailor their device choices around specific activities, rather than simply throwing everything at a commodity PC, the variety of form factors and use cases will only diversify. A single device type might eventually become more popular than others, but the future is trending toward variety, and the Rove -- just like mini-tablets and the inevitable introduction of wearable technology -- is an experiment within this movement.

It remains to be seen, of course, if consumers are interested in playing games on giant tablets. But HP isn't the only one exploring the concept. At CES, Navin Shenoy, VP and GM of Intel's mobile client platforms, described Lenovo's 27-inch Horizon, a detachable all-one-PC, in very similar terms. The Rove will ship in July, but HP has not yet announced price details.

The other announcements include several TouchSmart laptops. Notable additions include the TouchSmart 11, which features the newest AMD chips and is a budget-friendly $399, and the Envy TouchSmart 14, which is a bit pricier at $699 -- but also much flashier. That device will be among the first to utilize a Haswell processor, and it will boast a whopping 3200 x 1800-pixel touchscreen -- which isn't quite 4K resolution, but still beats the 15-inch MacBook Pro's 2880 x 1800-pixel Retina display. Though not cheap, the TouchSmart 14 is a sign that appealing Win8 devices are coming down in price. A Surface Pro and keyboard, for example, totals over $1,000.

HP also unveiled the Envy 17 non-touch laptop, which has a 17.3-inch display and a 2-TB hard drive, and can be purchased in both Intel-based and AMD-based configurations. It will be available in June for $699. Also, 20-inch and 23-inch TouchSmart all-in-ones will become available in June, at $619 and $749, respectively. The announcements were rounded out by a range of desktops, from the $289 HP 110 to the liquid-cooled, $1,100 HP Envy Phoenix 800.

The new offerings come only a week after HP introduced the Win8-based Split x2 and the Android-based Slatebook x2. Taken together, the new products hit almost all major use cases and price points. But with customers flocking predominately to Apple and Samsung on the mobile scene, and with sales down for traditional models, time will tell if HP's revamped line-up can rejuvenate its PC sales.

About the Author(s)

Michael Endler

Associate Editor, InformationWeek.com

Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 and, pending the completion of a long-gestating thesis, will hold an MA in Cinema Studies from San Francisco State.

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