HP's touchscreen takes on Apple's iPad

Hewlett-Packard, the largest maker of personal computers, is offering a touch-screen desktop that can tilt back, to discourage business customers from switching to Apple's iPad and other tablet computers.

The TouchSmart 9300 Elite, which houses all of its electronics behind a 23-inch screen, can recline to a 60-degree angle, according to Randall Martin, a chief design strategist at HP in Palo Alto, California.

The desktop computer can become almost flush with the tabletop, making it easier for people to gather around and engage with the touch-sensitive screen.

HP was adapting the consumer version of the TouchSmart to be more useful for retailers, hotels, healthcare workers and other businesses that interact with customers, Martin said at a technology demonstration in San Francisco last week.

"Their initial thought with the TouchSmart was that it would be a great consumer product, but there has been great interest in this in retail, hotel services and things of that nature," said Tim Bajarin, president of technology consulting firm Creative Strategies. "They're figuring out ways to enhance the experience for both markets."

The TouchSmart Elite, designed for businesses, will be on sale in the US in May. The price has not yet been announced. A consumer version of the reclining TouchSmart starts at US$900 ($1170).

Makers of desktop PCs are increasingly competing with Apple and other tablet-computer designers for business customers.

Daimler's Mercedes-Benz said in October it was distributing iPads to its 355 US dealers for customers to sign documents on the screen and for on-the-spot financing options from showroom floors.

Global personal computer shipments rose 2.7 per cent in the fourth quarter, missing projections, as consumers held back on holiday purchases and chose iPads over desktops and notebooks, market researcher IDC said last month.

HP retained the industry's top spot, even as its market share dropped 0.7 of a percentage point to 19.5 per cent from a year earlier. Dell was second with 12.1 per cent, followed by Acer with 10.6 per cent.

HP's new product would let businesses customise its options and provide greater security, the company said. Customers can opt to automatically encrypt its hard drive, or disable USB ports and webcams.

HP is trying to make it easier for its computers to share movies, music and other content across networks by adapting virtual private network technology used in its business workstation products.

- Bloomberg

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