HP puts touchscreen PC in play

HP upgrades its touchscreen PC, adding the ability for users to leave video messages.

Hewlett-Packard pushed the concept of the desktop as a shared information center this week, with the introduction of an upgraded touchscreen PC that lets users record video notes for other family members to view.

Designed to sit in a kitchen or living room, the HP TouchSmart IQ775 PC has an interactive touchscreen that allows users to perform basic computing actions and schedule activities.

Touching the PC's 19-inch LCD (liquid crystal display) fires up applications and users can leave virtual post-it notes containing voice and video message for other family members. For example, mothers can leave instructions for children, said Ann Finnie, a spokeswoman for HP.

"It's a nice central place for family members to interact with each other," Finnie said.

The PC comes with specialized software that takes advantage of the touchscreen interface. HP SmartCenter software, designed specifically for touch and built on top of Windows Vista Home Premium, creates a page of quick links and favorite applications on the PC. In SmartCalendar, a part of SmartCenter, users can maintain schedules or leave voice and video messages for others, Finnie said. HP Photosmart Touch edits and organizes digital photos.

It comes with an Advanced Micro Devices Turion 64 X2 dual-core TL-58 processor, a 500G-byte hard drive, 2G bytes of RAM and Nvidia's GeForce Go 7600 graphics card. A TV tuner allows users to watch TV on the PC. It also has a webcam and keyboard, mouse and stylus as input devices.

The US$1,599 system is available in Australia, the U.S., Canada, U.K., Korea, Japan, and New Zealand. The company has plans to extend availability beyond those countries, Finnie said.

Though laptops are all the rage, there is a growing segment of the home market where desktops are re-emerging as home entertainment and information centers, said Tim Bajarin, president of analyst firm Creative Strategies. Microsoft has been emphasizing the concept of a digital home, pushing PCs to be information and entertainment centers with its Windows Media Center and Vista OSes.

While it may take time for such PCs to establish themselves, computers like TouchSmart have started showing up in kitchens and dens, Bajarin said.

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