HP makes a digital entertainment play with new product lineup

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HP is the latest IT player to throw its hat in the digital entertainment ring unveiling a swag of new digital photography and home entertainment products which it hopes will cement its future in the digital home consumer market.

Unveiling over 30 new products to the media in Shanghai last week, HP's senior vice president for Image and Printing, Asia Pacific, Christopher Morgan, said HP's two pronged strategy had seen the vendor tackle the digital photography market first, with home entertainment products the second phase of the attack.

"HP is moving from the home office and we're now coming into the living room," said Morgan. "We're building the lean-back experience."

The new product portfolio includes new digital cameras and camera printers along with home entertainment-focused notebooks and PCs and a converged iPaq.

It also includes LCD and plasma displays and an all-in-one home theatre product - the Instant Cinema Digital Projector ep9010, which includes a DLP projector, DVD player, and integrated subwoofer and 2.1 channel sound.

But a number of HP products announced in the US - including its plasma displays and the HP iPod and the digital entertainment hub product recently announced by CEO Carly Fiorina - won't be seen here this year.

A spokesperson for HP Australia confirmed that the company "was evaluating the business case for the Asian market" for the products, which have not yet been slated for Australian release.

According to Morgan, the reasons for delaying the release in some Asia Pac markets was due to the logistics of bringing a raft of new products to market. Additionally, the Australian market for digital photography was lagging behind the US, with more work needed to develop market readiness and build HP's profile, he said.

"Here in A/NZ we'll have a stronger initial focus on photography. Consumers are first going to come in on specific use devices such as games or photography. Over time we're going to have to mix those [using storage and sharing hubs such as Media Centre PCs]," said Morgan.

The migration of the PC to the "lean-back" experience of the loungeroom Media Centre PC was a dramatic evolution, he said. "In the US, Media Centre has moved forward and is already a significant part of the product portfolio."

While devices such as Media Centre PCs - designed as loungeroom entertainment hubs for storing and playing TV, DVD, digital photos and music - are coming to market in Australia over the next month, Morgan believed that the technology was about 18 months away from coming of age.

With its Windows Media Centre PC slated for release on 30 September, HP will also offer a mobile entertainment solution with the Pavilion entertainment notebook. The company is also claiming an industry first with its Instant Cinema Digital Projector ep9010 - which includes a DLP projector with integrated DVD and audio.

"All the consumer needs to do is plug in the power, there are no other wires," said Morgan. It's ease of use and ability to be stored when not in use would both be selling points, said Morgan.

"Before, the big challenge was convincing your spouse to let you install a home theatre, or the gigantic commitment to space you don't want to give up," said Morgan. "Now you can keep it in the closet, and there's only one cable to plug in."

With a new ad campaign kicking off from October with the tagline "making it real", Morgan said HP was moving the emphasis from "devices and faster specs" to whole system approach with ease of use and interoperability.

Sarah Stokely travelled to Shanghai as a guest of HP.

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