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HP plans massive consumer product push

As part of its broad "Radically Simple, Better Together" pitch to consumers, the company is readying the largest consumer product integration in its history.

As part of a broad new pitch to consumers, Hewlett-Packard is planning the largest consumer-product introduction in its history.

The company has scheduled an Aug. 11 event in New York where CEO Carly Fiorina will outline the new push, which will focus on linking HP's broad portfolio of technology, from PCs to printers to cameras.

For some months now, the company has been developing a broad strategy that's known internally as "Radically Simple, Better Together." The idea is to make HP products easier to use than rival products and so effective when used together that customers stay with the company's offerings when buying different types of devices. Executives said in the spring that the first fruits of the design strategy would appear later in the year, and sources said next month's New York event will mark the first in-depth public discussion of the approach.

On the product side, HP has been calling this launch "Big Bang 2," making it the sequel to last year's overhaul of HP's printer lineup.

In addition to its existing consumer products, HP is also working on a few new categories of products that it feels play to its strengths in digital imaging. One such product expected as part of the new launch is designed to let people burn their VHS home movies to DVDs.

In a recent interview, Fiorina told CNET that linking various islands of technology together is critical for the tech industry.

"The real big thing in technology is that all this stuff has to work together," Fiorina said. "And when all this works together, what do you have to think about? Security, reliability, mobility, rich media, total cost of ownership--all these things matter. "

On the consumer side, the company is trying to create HP as a unified brand in consumers' minds, suggesting that when consumers buy more than one HP product, the devices will work well together and will offer a similar look and feel, NPD Group analyst Stephen Baker said.

"Sony tries to create that same kind of image," Baker said. "Anybody that has the broad portfolio that Sony and HP do--that's the value of their brand."

Sony, for example, has tried to use its Memory Stick removable storage media as a unifying way to connect its various products. The approach allows, for example, pictures that are taken on a Sony camera to be easily transferred to a Sony handheld or PC.

HP, meanwhile, is including Secure Digital memory slots on many of its new notebooks and cameras. Its printers and many of its desktop PCs are already capable of directly reading from several removable flash media types.

Getting it together
Integration has become a buzzword throughout the computer industry. As PC growth has slowed, computer makers have tried to tie the PC to other devices. Apple Computer, for example, has tried to make the Mac the center of a "digital hub" that connects to devices such as its iPod music player. Gateway, meanwhile, is trying to transform itself into what it calls a "branded integrator" that sells devices like home stereo systems and plasma TVs alongside its computers.

Like Sony, HP is likely to aim at the higher end of the market with many of its new efforts. Although the company has offered low-end PCs under the HP brand, it has said that the Compaq brand is especially targeted at the budget segment of the market.

The new products and strategy come as HP and its competitors gear up for the back-to-school season. Next to the holiday buying season, the third quarter is the second most active period for PC makers, with the bulk of sales in the period coming in the last two weeks of September.

Among other promotions, HP plans to start selling a new tablet PC at retail stores, as well as new notebooks with DVD+RW drives. Before the end of the year, HP will sell a notebook with a 17-inch screen, company executives have said.

HP is in the midst of picking up momentum after the long and often difficult job of absorbing Compaq Computer. The company saw PC shipments rise in the second quarter compared with the same period a year ago, the first time PC shipments have grown in annual comparisons since the Compaq acquisition was completed.

The new consumer effort follows a May initiative to focus HP's corporate sales strategy on what the company has dubbed the "adaptive enterprise."

CNET's Richard Shim contributed to this report.