HP debuts PC that works like a TV too

CIOL Bureau
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SAN FRANCISCO: Hewlett-Packard Co. unveiled a PC that acts like a television, the first of a new wave of crossover products that computer makers hope will build enthusiasm in a stagnant market. The HP Media Center is a $1,400 computer built around a new digital-entertainment-focused version of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows XP operating system called Windows XP Media Center.

The HP computer, which will be available by the end of October, comes with a remote control, television tuner, and can record and play television shows and digital music. A monitor is extra. Retailers said they saw the new category as energizing buyers excited by connecting devices in their homes, hopefully in time for the holidays, which follow a dull back-to-school buying season.

"The remote control could well become the next standard PC peripheral," Tony Weiss, executive vice president of CompUSA, said in the statement from HP and Microsoft. The PC can also store digital photos and play DVDs.

HP, the No. 1 PC maker, and its competitors are looking for new uses for the PC, since many consumers appear satisfied with the computers they already have. Microsoft, in turn, has long strived to get its products into the living room with multimedia products, such as the Xbox video game machine, in order to make up for slowing personal computer sales.

HP executives have said they are considering giving their two consumer PC brands different images, gearing the HP brand toward entertainment and making home office computing the strong point of the Compaq brand, which it inherited in its $18.7 billion acquisition of Compaq Computer Corp.

Japan's Sony Corp. has seen some success with its multimedia VAIO PCs in Japan and other makers are expected to support Microsoft's new operating system, although the prospects are still uncertain since a number of companies have tried to marry the PC and the television in the past without producing a runaway hit.

PC monitors and televisions have different resolutions, and they are often in different parts of the room. HP said students and people living in small spaces would be top candidates.

Analysts expect the PC market to grow only slightly in 2002 after contracting last year in the first decline recorded since the mid-1980s. Most of the demand is expected to come from those replacing existing machines, since PCs have become so widespread, they say.

© Reuters