HP aims to simplify notebook lineup

Though Hewlett Packard Co. (HP) is striving to intensify its presence in the software and services arenas, for many the vendor is still first and foremost a product company.

A session on the HP’s recently released 2007 notebook roadmap was one of the most popular breakouts at the HP Technology Forum here on Tuesday.

The goal is to drive much of the complexity out of what has become a confusing array of offerings, said Brian Allen, a product manager for HP’s Performance series notebooks.

While in 2006 there were some 15 different series offered, a new nomenclature and category lineup for 2007 reflects the company’s new direction in this space.

“We know it’s always painful to do naming changes,” said Allen. “But customers, resellers and internal sales all came back and said you have way too many series, you need to consolidate and make it simple.”

For 2007 there will be just three series available: the 2000 series of ultra-light notebooks, the 6000 series with a balance between features and mobility, and the 8000 performance series of high-end workstation-style notebooks.

“Everything now falls into those three categories,” said Allen.

Across the three categories HP will offer models with four different feature sets.

The S (standard) series for business quality mobility, the B (business) series with more features but a stable platform development cycle, the P (professional) series with even greater innovation and the W (workstation) series, which offers a workstation-quality experience.

The 2000 series will have two models, the 2510p and the 2710p, both of which will be available in July. Replacing the nc2400 and nc4400 series and with the same form factor, the 2510p will weigh 2.9 lbs, have a 12.1″ display, and be available in single or dual spindle.

And replacing the tc4400, HP’s new tablet PC is the 2510p. It will also offer a 12.1″ display and weigh in at 3.9 lbs. Both will feature Intel processors. “The 2710p is probably the most exciting offering that we have because it’s a radically new design,” said Allen. “We shaved off about a pound from where we were with the last model.”

Pricing is still being determined, but Allen said he expects the 2710p to start in the US$1800 range. He added HP has had requests for 14″ and workstation tablets, and while that is being explored it’s not currently on the roadmap.

The 6000 series includes three models but only two different form factors.

The 6910p weighs 4.6 lbs with a 14.1″ display and an Intel processor; the 6710b (Intel) and 6715b (AMD) weigh 5.7 lbs with a 15.1″ display; and the 6510b (Intel) and 6515b (AMD) weighs 5 lbs with a 14.1″ display.

All the 6000 models are currently available.

And in the 8000 series, two models will be available in July.

Replacing the nx9420 and nc8430 will be the 8510p/w, weighing 7.5 lbs with a 17″ display and Intel processor. And replacing the nw9440 and the nw8440 will be the 8510p/w, weighing 6.1 lbs with a 15.4″ display and Intel processor. Allen notes AMD processors will not be available in the 8000 series for performance reasons.

“Right now we are still seeing Intel outperform AMD within a notebook environment so it’s still the highest end performance,” said Allen, adding HP’s notebook portfolio has now moved to a 64-bit architecture, across all lines.

In the 8000 series, the maximum system memory currently available is 4GB, but Allen said HP is working with manufacturers to test 8GB of core system memory through two 4GB Dims, an option he said may be available in the 8000 series within a few months and across the wider notebook line in 2008.

The performance series will also have BlueRay DVD as an option but with pricing in the US$700 range it will be a pricy feature. From an OS perspective, Allen said HP will continue to offer Windows XP and Vista, but cautioned that Microsoft will only allow pre-installs of XP until the end of January 2008.

And while there are no plans to offer Linux pre-installs, he said HP does offer Linux-certified machines for Novell and is exploring RedHat for the performance series.

When it comes to wireless, HP will continue to use Intel and Broadcom for 802.11abg, and will offer 802.11 Draft N, which promises 100Mbps or better throughput, as an option on its 2007 machines.

Allen cautions though that it is a draft standard, and when certified in a year at best a software upgrade will be required, and at worst a hardware replacement.

“There will be some risk to playing around with the draft N card,” the HP executive said.

In 2006 all but two of HP’s notebook models were widescreen, and in 2007 the entire line is widescreen. Allen said the move was driven by Vista’s optimization for widescreen and the fact panel manufacturers are moving away form square displays, driving-up costs.

HP, he said, is examining 64GB solid-state drives and plans to make it available as an option in its 2000 ultralight series later in the year and across the portfolio in 2008.

Hybrid drives and Intel Robson are also being evaluated, but won’t make their way onto the spec sheet until 2008.

Serial ports have been taken out of the 2007 portfolio and will only be accessible through docking stations.

Allen said HP has heard concerns from customers over this move, and he said they are testing PC Card, USB and Bluetooth-based solutions, as well as seeing if they an do something through the docking port.

“We are looking at a bunch of options on how we can do serial ports in a non-docked environment,” said Allen.

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