Going thin and bling, HP tries to strike Envy with latest laptops

It releases six new laptops that look a lot like Apple's

Hewlett-Packard Co. introduced a half-dozen new notebook PCs today, including a luxury line that bears a striking resemblance to Apple Inc.'s laptops.

HP also introduced a thin-and-light Pavilion consumer notebook with an aluminum shell starting at $US549, and a new Mini netbook powered by Nvidia Inc.'s ION graphics.

Overall, two things unify the new models introduced by the world's largest notebook vendor: a skinny, sub-inch profile, and an overt emphasis on design, including metallic shells and imprinted or etched designs on the cases.

Take the two new high-end notebooks HP is calling its Envy line. The Envys come encased in sleek gunmetal gray aluminum-magnesium alloy shells, use a low-profile, chiclet-style, backlit keyboard, sport a long-running but nonremoveable lithium-polymer battery, and a bright (410 nits) widescreen.

The result, as the picture below and PC World's reviewer both confirm, is a machine very similar to Apple's unibody aluminum-encased MacBook Pros.

The Envy 13, with a 13-in. screen, is 0.8-inches thick and weighs 3.74 pounds. It starts at $US1,699. The Envy 15 starts at $US1,799. Fully loaded models of either will cost more than $US2,000.

Roger Kay, an analyst with EndPoint Technology Associates Inc., is not bothered by HP's strategy of aping Apple's design or its prices.

"More than any other vendor, HP has narrowed that gap" with Apple, he said. He likens the strategy to the car industry.

"The Envy is like a Lexus, a luxury car that is still affordable to the upper-middle-classes," Kay said. Dell Inc.'s forthcoming ultra-thin (0.4-inches) Adamo, by contrast, is likely to be priced more "like a Ferrari -- only a few people are going to be able to buy them."

Besides the Envys, HP rolled out the Pavilion DM3 consumer notebook. Tipping in at 1-in. thick and 4.2 pounds, the aluminum-clad Pavilion starts at $US549 when equipped with an AMD processor.

It also rolled out a new business notebook, the ProBook 5310M, which starts at $US649.

HP also introduced a special edition of its HP Mini 110 netbook imprinted with a picture created by a noted European design firm. The HP Mini 110 by Studio Tord Boontje will start at $US399.

HP also introduced the new HP Mini 311. It comes with a larger-than-average 11.6-inch screen powered by Nvidia's ION multimedia platform. The Mini 311 also starts at $US399.

That pricing appears to be lower than other ION-equipped netbooks, notes Richard Shim, an analyst with IDC Corp.

Shim hailed HP's ongoing prowess at taking high-end trends and translating them into products that work at different price points.

HP has been "pretty successful" going "after a wide audience, from entry-level to high end," he said. "Apple, I would argue, is still just high-end."

Most of the notebooks will become available on Oct. 22 the day that Windows 7 launches, though buyers can reserve them immediately via HP's Web site.

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