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HP founds CoolTown in Internet territory

Hewlett-Packard Labs cuts the ribbon for a project that showcases the possibilities of emerging technologies.

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  HP CoolTown vision of future
Doug McGowan, GM of mobile solutions, HP
PALO ALTO, Calif.--The latest venture for Hewlett-Packard research and development is a settlement in Internet territory called CoolTown.

HP Labs this week cut the ribbon for the project here and opened its doors to journalists and potential partners. In this "town" nothing is for sale yet. Instead, CoolTown is a demo site--closer in size to a two-car garage than an actual town--that showcases the possibilities of emerging technologies.

The goal for CoolTown, which has been under development for several years, is to get the ball rolling on discussions with potential partners who tour the site about turning long-term visions into real-life products and services.

To enter CoolTown, you must first walk through the doors of a replica of the garage where the company was founded more than 60 years ago. From there, you walk through five scenes: a living room, an airport check-in terminal, a car, a clothing store and an airport lounge.

Underlying all the scenes is the potential of the Internet to affect people's daily lives. For example, a clock radio in the living room has access to your calendar via the Web and can wake you up early if there is a traffic jam on your route to work. Or a rental car company will have access to the seat settings in your car via the Internet and can automatically adjust your rental to fit your preferences.

"CoolTown is a stage where we can demo how mobile technology can be applied in reality and how HP and partners can make it happen," said Doug McGowan, an HP general manager.

HP believes the project represents a computing future that ties in with two of the company's strengths: consumer gadgets, such as handheld computers and printers, and the powerful servers that will enable these devices to take advantage of the Internet.

The town is also part of an ongoing effort within HP Labs to increase cooperation with other large companies. Research money is often a fraction of revenues, which have slowed dramatically in recent months for many tech companies, including HP.

About 25 potential partner companies, including some from the automotive and retail industries, have already toured CoolTown, McGowan said.

The scenarios within CoolTown are expected to change as technology and partnerships evolve, and other towns customized to demonstrate the technologies of HP partners could also be built.

HP plans to open other CoolTowns: one in Europe and Asia, and even smaller versions throughout the world. Most are expected to open by the end of the year.