Looking to build on its recent rise to No. 1 in the U.S. PC market, Hewlett-Packard has taken the wraps off a new line of notebooks for small businesses that aims to merge business functionality with a sophisticated, yet minimalist, design.
The new HP ProBook series, which combines sleek matte and glossy surfaces in the user's choice of merlot or glossy noir finishes, also promises to lower costs for business notebook buyers through aggressive U.S. street pricing that begins at $529.
However, the new product lineup isn't just about good looks or low cost, noted HP Senior Vice President Ted Clark. "The HP ProBooks deliver the right blend of features and professional innovations to provide a great user experience," Clark said.
Adding Mobile Broadband
Featuring high-definition LED backlit displays with 14-inch, 15.6-inch and 17.3-inch diagonal wide-screen (16:9 aspect ratio) sizes, the HP ProBooks give buyers the option of selecting preconfigured models equipped with processors from Intel (Core 2 Duo or Celeron) as well as AMD (Athlon, Sempron or Turion) on the 14-inch and 15.6-inch models. And for the first time ever, business users can order preconfigured laptops featuring Novell's SUSE Linux operating systems, as well as run with Windows Vista or even downgrade to Windows XP.
Under the hood, the new HP ProBook series integrates a Wi-Fi radio that includes all available variants of the wireless technology (a/b/g/n draft 2.0). What's more, all models give buyers the option of adding a Bluetooth 2.0 radio to the mix.
Even better, the 15.6-inch ProBook 4510s (Intel) and 4515s (AMD) incorporate HP's latest mobile broadband technology as a user-selected option. Based on Qualcomm's Gobi platform, the HP un2400 module offers support for multiple mobile broadband network technologies from AT&T, Verizon and other 3G network operators worldwide.
Users who purchase a Gobi-enabled notebook will be able to activate wireless service on almost any major 3G network worldwide as well as change their wireless networks whenever they want without having to purchase new hardware. Given that Gobi is designed to work with GSM as well as CDMA 2000/EVDO networks, users of compatible notebooks gain more international roaming options as well as greater flexibility when it comes to choosing a mobile data plan.
The addition of the optional Gobi module costs "$126 for the hardware," said HP spokesperson Mike Hockey. "Service costs are set by the carriers."
Moving Up The Ranks
HP's new ProBooks also feature internal hard-disk options that range between 160GB and 500GB. Select drives can be configured with a three-axis accelerometer capable of detecting sudden movements to enable HP's 3D DriveGuard technology to protect critical information stored on the hard drive by initiating protective action whenever impacts, bumps or drops are detected.
HP's new small business notebook push is likely a response to the latest industry trends. "Low-priced mobile PCs continued to be the growth driver for the PC industry in most regions" in the first quarter, said Mikako Kitagawa, a principal analyst at Gartner.
In the U.S. market in particular, low-priced mobile PCs led market growth in the first quarter, Kitagawa noted. Moreover, pricing pressure was not limited to the consumer market, "but it expanded into select professional markets as well," Kitagawa said.
"Low-cost mobile PCs will continue to drive market growth," Kitagawa predicted. "It could be mini-notebooks or low-priced regular notebooks with 14- to 15-inch screens. PC vendors have to adjust the cost structures for low-cost PCs, and HP is in a good position to do so."