HP considering touchscreens for next Mini-Note

Hewlett-Packard is considering a range of new technologies for the next version of its popular 2133 Mini-Note netbook, including touchscreens.

“When we send out the Mini-Note to education it always comes back with a lot of finger prints on the screen,” said Phil Devlin, manager of product marketing at HP’s mobile business unit in the Asia Pacific, during a recent interview. That tells him people are looking for touchscreen technology.

He was quick to point out that HP hasn’t announced any new version of the Mini-Note or a plans for an update. Nothing has been decided for such a device.

But PC vendors always keep their eye on new technologies with an eye to what people want. The Mini-Note was designed in part for education, so finger prints on a screen is an important signal to HP in terms of possible future development.

The device launched in the second week of April, with volume shipments starting from May.

SSDs (Solid State Drives) with higher capacities are another area HP is looking into. But there is a problem holding back widespread adoption of SSDs over HDDs (hard disk drives).

“They are still expensive,” said Devlin. “People will have to pay a premium for the technology.”

SSDs are made from flash memory chips and have no moving parts, therefore they don’t drain batteries as much as standard HDDs. SSDs are also more shock resistant. They won’t break as easily if dropped. Finally, machines with SSDs boot up, load and run software faster than HDDs.

Netbooks, or mini-laptops, are a new breed of device designed for mobility and surfing the Internet. They normally weigh about 1 kilogram, have 7-inch to 10-inch LCD screens, carry long lasting batteries and connect wirelessly to the Internet. And they generally cost less than the average notebook PC at between US$199 and $599. Asustek Computer of Taiwan began shipping the first true commercial netbook last October, the Eee PC. The device has grown fast in popularity, and caused a number of rival PC vendors to climb aboard with netbooks of their own.

“At HP, we believe the netbook has a very bright future,” Devlin said.

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