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New HP notebooks target small business

Hewlett-Packard introduces a new notebook PC line for small businesses today and will trim its lineup to three basic product lines.

Hewlett-Packard introduced a new notebook PC line for small businesses today and will trim its lineup to three basic product lines.

The new OmniBook XE, which starts at $1,499, and the effort to trim back the number of models are strategic moves taken to vault HP into the upper echelon of the mobile market.

Although a top tier desktop manufacturer, lackluster notebook sales, especially in comparison to traditional rivals Compaq Computer and IBM, have kept HP among the second tier vendors. While sales have improved over the past year, HP still does not rank in the top five in the quarterly sales results from analysts.

Moreover, arch rival Compaq has revved up its small business strategy over the last six months, coming out with a number of new notebook models and business programs for this segment.

In the future, HP will sell only three families of notebooks, according to Glenn Kuo, product manager for the HP mobile computing division: the budget OmniBook XE; the OmniBook 4150, a full-featured notebook focused on performance and cutting-edge technology; and the ultrathin OmniBook 900, which emphasizes weight and size over budget or raw performance.

The OmniBook 7100, a performance-intensive notebook, will start to disappear, he said. The OmniBook 800, 5200, 5700 and the ultra-thin, pricey, magnesium-encased Sojourn, meanwhile have already vanished from the HP line.

"The Sojourn form factor needed to cost less," he said. "That's why we are no longer selling the Sojourn."

The OmniBook XE, released today, is HP's offering for the budget end of the notebook segment. Ranging in price from $1,499 to into the $2,000 range, the XE is powered by an Intel Celeron notebook processor running at speeds between 266-MHz and 333-MHz containing 128kb of "integrated" secondary cache. By having the cache integrated, overall notebook performance increases approximately 10 to 15 percent and extends battery life, he said.

The XE comes with either a 12.1-inch or 13.1-inch screen. The system weighs approximately 6.5 pounds and is 1.65-inches thick.

HP took extra pains with the design of the XE to make it as simple as possible to use. A 56kbps modem, for instance, is integrated into the computer. As a result, users need only plug a phone cable into the side of the computer to get on line. Additional cords are not needed.

"They [customers] don't want to remember the dongle or buy additional dongles as they break," he said.

The system also borrows a bit of style from the iMac play book. The latch, CD-ROM drive control buttons, and other control features come in sapphire blue, which contrasts with the dark gray case. HP also molded a hand grip into the case for easier carrying.