HP cautious about touch in business laptops

There is limited corporate demand for touch technology in laptops, company says

Hewlett-Packard on Monday launched its first mainstream business laptop with a touchscreen, but said it would be cautious in bringing touch technology to its existing business laptop lines.

The EliteBook 2740p is a convertible tablet PC with a 12.1-inch touchscreen that can be rotated and placed on top of a keyboard.

Touch technology finds more use in the consumer space, and is not as widely used in the business space yet, said Mike Hockey, an HP spokesman. HP may bring touchscreens to its ProBook and EliteBook business laptops once enterprises get a closer look at touch technology, HP officials said.

HP was among the earliest vendors to launch PCs with touchscreens through its TouchSmart line of all-in-one desktops. Today the company offers touchscreens in the consumer line of Envy laptops and the 5102 Mini business netbook, but held off bringing touch technology to business laptops until the EliteBook 2740p's launch.

There have been fewer requests for touchscreens than for HP to bump up the performance and bring business-related features to laptops, Hockey said. However the company is monitoring use of touch in enterprises and could add touchscreens depending on how the trend pans out, he said. He didn't provide a specific timeframe.

HP also has a software development ecosystem for creating touch-based applications, but at the moment most of it is centered around consumer applications. For example, TouchSmart PCs come with touch applications that allow users to view videos from sites like Netflix with just a few taps on the screen.

However, touchscreens will find good use in tablets, which are targeted at niche markets like education and health care where such devices have been used to fill forms and annotation. Tablets with touchscreens are also aimed at sales personnel and mainstream consumers who take notes on the screens.

The company has previously said that touch technology needs further development to be an alternative to keyboards and mice in corporate environments. Touchscreens may provide a better way to manipulate images in applications like CAD/CAM, but keyboards and mice remain better for writing huge reports.

The TouchSmart all-in-one desktops with touchscreens have found some innovative uses in small businesses, Hockey said. A bakery in California uses HP's all-in-one Touchsmart PC to record orders.

The EliteBook 2740p will come with Intel's latest standard voltage and low voltage Core processors. A six-cell battery will provide it with five hours of runtime, while a slice battery, which is attached under the device, can provide up to 11 hours of battery life. The laptop will become available worldwide in April starting at US$1,599.

HP also announced the EliteBook 2540p laptop, which HP claims is its lightest yet at 3.3 pounds (1.5 kilograms). It comes with a 12.1-inch display and a six-cell battery that provides up to eight hours of battery life, or a nine-cell battery that provides up to 10.5 hours. The laptop will become available in November priced starting at $1,099.

HP also updated its ProBook line, bringing in "prosumer" features that could allow the laptop to be used at home and office, said Bernadina Mickey, business notebook platform manager in HP's Personal Systems Group. The company has recast the ProBook laptop design with a new exterior and new Intel Core processors. The laptop will come in screen sizes ranging from 13.3 inches to 17.3 inches, and will be available in March with prices starting at $719.

The EliteBook and ProBook laptops will also have a new feature called HP Day Starter, which will allow users to access the day's calendar from Microsoft Outlook as Windows boots.

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