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HP: In Touch with the Future

The latest line of desktop PCs from Hewlett-Packard Co., released in January, comes pre-loaded with Windows Vista Business 64, but that's not the OS that has HP officials excited -- it's the upcoming Windows 7 that really has them buzzing.

That's because Windows 7 will have touch-screen capabilities, and the HP dx9000 TouchSmart Business PC is all about tactile, mouse-free computing. As its name suggests, the dx9000 TouchSmart boasts a 22-inch, touch-enabled screen. HP officials hope they're on the forefront of a new technology paradigm. While touch-screen technology is nothing new, Windows 7 could be the OS that boosts touch beyond its traditional markets.

"We're looking forward to Windows 7 as it relates to this product," says Kirk Godkin, manager, Americas business desktops at HP. "Customers are naturally going to say, 'give me a device, give me a client, give me a PC that takes full advantage of the experience that Windows 7 is going to deliver. If it's going to have these built-in attributes as relates to touch, give me a device I can roll out in my environment.' Yeah, I'm looking forward to it."

Aside from Windows Vista, the TouchSmart boasts an Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 processor, 4GB of memory, a 320GB hard drive and a Virtual LAN driver, among other features, according to a January HP press release. But it's the screen that makes the device especially attractive.

Receptive Market
Customers aren't waiting until the release of Windows 7 to deploy the TouchSmart, Godkin says. It's making inroads with software vendors that already have touch functionality, as well as in markets that have been touch-heavy for years, such as hospitality. One early customer is Royal Oak, Mich.-based GuestMVP, which is looking into putting TouchSmart PCs in luxury boxes in sports arenas.

"Arena guests could order food and cocktails, or watch replays of the game," Godkin says.

But HP is looking beyond already touch-friendly markets. Health care will be a major target area, Godkin says -- and so will the enterprise in general. Mobile devices such as the iPod and iPhone have acclimated users to touch interfaces, Godkin explains, and habits formed using those devices could spill into enterprise computing. "It remains to be seen until the product's launched how addictive it really can be," Godkin adds.

And, of course, Windows 7 should provide a boost. "There's an addressable market even without Windows 7," Godkin says. "You add Windows 7 and it's a multiplier. Only [users] can tell you how early they're going to adopt or how they're going to move."

But they will move eventually, Godkin believes, and not only to touch -- they'll also move to voice recognition, meaning the mouse and keyboard could eventually become as antiquated as the punch card.

"Whether it's a notebook or even your standard monitor, I expect [touch] to be just about everywhere, and I think the applications are going to be right alongside with it," Godkin says. "Touch [will be] everywhere within a few years. The mobile stuff has really pushed that off. When you start talking about voice-recognition software -- when that works better -- between the two, you're going to be accomplishing everything you accomplish today with a mouse and a keyboard. For us at HP, we're seeing a natural evolution. To live inside of a digital world and to get more accomplished, that's going to have to be developed out."

About the Author

Lee Pender is the executive features editor of Redmond magazine. You can reach him at lpender@redmondmag.com or follow him on Twitter.

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