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HP Promises Flat Panel TVs, iPods

LAS VEGAS – Hewlett-Packard confirmed a long-standing industry rumor that it would jump into the flat panel television market with the announcement on Thursday it will ship two models later this year.

The company gave only a few product specifics saying a 30-inch LCD and 42-inch plasma set would be available by the 2004 holidays. HP will use its own imaging engine and said the displays will feature advanced panels that offer deeper black levels, vibrant colors and high-definition resolution. Pricing was not available. HP joins Gateway and Dell as recent computer centric companies that have launched themselves into the CE category.

HP was busy on several other fronts at the International CES:

  • It announced a deal with Apple to produce an HP branded digital music player based on Apple’s iPod.
  • That it was adding DVD-RW capability to its aftermarket DVD Writer line.
  • That this fall HP will ship an entertainment hub that will serve as a central distribution and access point for a variety of multimedia.
  • The company announced three new notebooks and eight desktops.

The HP music player is expected to ship this during the summer with pricing to be comparable to other such devices. Product specifications for the HP iPod were not available, but Apple sells several versions starting at $299 for the 15GB version. Also available are 20GB and 40GB models.

As part of the agreement HP will install Apple’s iTunes Digital Jukebox software on upcoming HP desktop and notebook computers starting this summer.

The addition of dual format DVD rewritable drives into HP’s aftermarket segment is a major departure for the company, which up until this point would only sell drives featuring DVD+RW technology.

Steve Johnson, HP’s worldwide product marketing manager for optical storage, said having only a single format drive was a major detriment to sales in the aftermarket because consumers were worried that format might not remain available in the future. This consumer worry has meant that dual format drives have dominated sales so it was simply poor business to not jump on the bandwagon, Johnson said.

This information was coming from HP’s channel partners and sales associates, Johnson said.

However, this change will not impact HP’s desktop and notebook computers. These will continue to only feature Plus drives, said Tom Markworth, product manager for HP’s North American consumer computing.

‘We are not getting a lot of requests for the dual format as an embedded technology,’ Markworth said, adding consumers tend to focus more on the format when they are buying a single DVD burner, but when it is simply just a component in an overall PC system it is not as important.

The upcoming Entertainment Hub is HP’s attempt to place several different multimedia technologies into a single device. The Hub will not only handle multimedia content, but will work with cable, satellite and HDTV signals along with PVR functionality. It will be available this fall. Pricing was not available.

HP refreshed its core desktop and notebook lines. Available this month are the Pavilion a400n, $549, the a410n, $649, a420n, $719 and a430n. All prices reflect a $50 mail in rebate. The a400n has an Intel Celeron 2.7GHz processor, 256MB of RAM, an 80GB hard drive and CD-RW drive. The a410n adds a DVD-rom drive and doubles the amount of RAM, the a420n has an AMD Athlon XP3000+chip and 120GB hard drive and the flagship a430n has a DVD+RW drive.

The new Presario models range in price from $429 to $699, after $50 mail-in rebate, with the top end S6500NX featuring the XP 3000+ processor, 512MB of RAM, 160GB hard drive and DVD+RW drive and a CD-ROM drive.

The notebooks are the Pavilion ZX5000 and ZV5000 series. The former is based on a 17-inch display and the latter has a 15.4-inch LCD. Pricing ranges from $949 to $1,999.