April 11, 2000 7:10 PM PDT

HP set to release new sleek notebook line

Hewlett-Packard later this month will release a new line of business notebooks equipped with 700-MHz Intel chips, blue cases and 15-inch screens, aimed at bolstering its position in the corporate notebook market.

Next week, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based PC maker will also unveil two new consumer Pavilion models, including one model that will contain a K6-2+ processor that will sell for $999 with rebate, according to people familiar with the company's plans.

Notebooks have been a particularly sore spot for HP, long ranked as a top seller of desktops and servers. Over the past three years, however, the company has revamped its notebook organization, slimmed down its product line and focused on keeping prices low. As a result, market share has steadily climbed.

"HP has gotten pretty aggressive on the notebook line," said Matt Sargent, mobile computing analyst with market research firm ARS. "They've kind of been the guy following behind the four big guys, meaning Dell, Compaq, IBM and Toshiba. They've kind of fit into that distant fifth position in the corporate market. But now they're trying to get a new line of products that really challenges that position and gets them more into the realm of a true notebook player."

HP's portable push will kick off Monday with the release of the Pavilion 3215 and 3295 for consumers. The 3215 will come with a K6-2+ processor, Advanced Micro Devices' new notebook chip, and sell for $1,099. For an initial period, HP will offer a $100 rebate. The 3295 will come with a 600-MHz Pentium III and sell for about $2,500.

The following week, the company will come out with the OmniBook 6000, a new line of corporate notebooks to replace the Omnibook 4150, said sources close to the PC maker. The 6000s will add a number of new features and shave off nearly a pound of weight.

"The big story with HP is their quality and their brand," said Terry Nozick, an analyst with Mobile Insights. "They had some mishaps with their early notebooks, but they've made major strides."

The OmniBook 6000 also will be one of the first notebooks shipping with the 700-MHz Pentium III processor, Sargent said. "That kind of breaks a new barrier for HP."

The new model, which will come with a stylized "titanium blue" cover made of magnesium and rubber, is 1.2 inches thick and weighs 5 pounds with a 14.1-inch screen or 5.2 pounds with a 15.1-inch display. Dealers have already started receiving new consumer and corporate models, according to sources.

HP has taken an unusual one-size-fits-all approach with the new notebooks. The 14.1- and 15.1-inch display models are nearly identical, Sargent pointed out. Most competitors, such as Dell and IBM, offer either smaller, lighter models with 13.3-inch displays or more feature-laden and heavier models with 15-inch screens.

The approach of a standard size "makes it a lot easier for a user to pick a system," Sargent said. "These are designed to be feature-rich systems, not ultra-portables by any means."

HP will offer Windows 95 or Windows 2000 with the majority of OmniBook 6000 configurations, as few corporate customers want Windows 98, said a source close to HP. The company also will provide an image creation CD for easily migrating data from the OmniBook 4150 to the 6000.

HP is catching up with Compaq, IBM and others by abandoning PC card modems and network cards in favor of miniPCI.

The OmniBook 6000 will also be one of the few corporate notebooks available with a DVD drive and Windows 2000. DVD driver problems have prevented many manufacturers from widely offering Windows 2000 on DVD models.

Low-end models will come with 500-MHz Celeron processors, with the entry-level portable featuring 64MB of RAM, a 5-GB hard drive, 14.1-inch display, 24X CD ROM drive, 56-kbps modem and Windows 95 for $2,299.

The high-end model comes with a 700-MHz Pentium processor, 128MB of memory, 18-GB hard drive, 15.1-inch display, 6X DVD and Windows 95 or Windows 2000 and will sell for less than $4,999.

HP still has a long road to travel, Sargent said. "HP has traditionally had good engineering, but they haven't been as strong in the marketing area, where Compaq and Dell have exceeded them."

 

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