HP moves out of den and into living room
By Scott Morrison
Published: January 9 2004 15:04 | Last Updated: January 9 2004 15:04
Hewlett-Packard wants to be front and centre in your living room. The scale of the US computer company's ambitions emerged on Thursday as it launched a next-generation entertainment hub that will let consumers store, manage and access their music, photos, video and movies.
The hub lies at the heart of HP's digital entertainment strategy and pits the US giant against a host of computer makers and traditional consumer electronics brands such as Sony and Panasonic.
HP said its new appliance, due to go on sale in the autumn, was a "breakthrough" product that was specifically designed for living room entertainment.
The announcement reflects the growing competition among consumer electronics and technology companies vying to create devices that could become the primary medium for storing, managing and playing digital content in the home.
And they have taken advantage of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to show off products that link PCs, TVs, stereos and media recorders together in home networks.
HP is already the leading seller of Media Centre PCs, a computer with Microsoft software designed as an entertainment unit. But HP said about 90 per cent of these PCs ended up in home offices or dens, rather than living rooms, and industry analysts have criticised the Media Centre PC as being less than satisfying because it is not easy enough for consumers to use.
HP resisted labelling its new entertainment hub as an upgraded Media Centre PC.
"This is a breakthrough into the next-generation consumer device that is really tuned for entertainment," said Jim McDonnell, a HP marketing official who was part of the company's delegation at the show on Thursday.
Still, HP's new hub, essentially a box with an operating system and storage capacity, will also run on Microsoft software that has been modified for entertainment functions. Mr McDonnell said HP would add proprietary software to the unit, but he declined to be more specific.
HP also said it would soon start selling peripheral products that connected to its entertainment hub. These include large-screen LCD and plasma displays, a new generation of digital projectors and a new iPaq hand-held computer that could also be used as a remote-control device.
HP said its new entertainment hub would work with existing consumer technologies such as analogue television sets. And the computer maker said it would build Windows-based devices that would connect a TV to the Media Centre PC through a wired or wireless computer network.
"What matters now is making all of the various digital entertainment products and content work together in a way that creates simple, enjoyable, intuitive digital experiences at a price that allows everyone to participate," said Carly Fiorina, HP's chief executive.
HP said it was stepping up efforts to safeguard intellectual property rights by building Broadcast Flag, a content protection technology, into all TVs, Media Centre PCs and entertainment hubs as of June.
The technology enables users to make copies of protected content and move it around within a home setting, but signals that the content cannot be shared indiscriminately over the internet.