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Hewlett-Packard eyeing TV market

The computing giant says it is scrutinizing the market for liquid crystal display televisions, plasma televisions and projection screen televisions.

LAS VEGAS--Dell and Gateway have begun to sell televisions, and Hewlett-Packard is looking at doing the same.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based computing giant is scrutinizing the market for liquid crystal display (LCD) televisions, plasma televisions and projection screen televisions, Jim McDonnell, vice president of marketing and sales for HP's Personal Systems Group, said in an interview at Comdex on Monday.

"For us, it is a market that is exciting," McDonnell said.

The move into fancy televisions is possible largely because HP currently sells products featuring the same basic underlying technology. LCD televisions are quite similar to LCD monitors, James Chu, CEO of ViewSonic, said in a separate interview. The video circuitry is a little different, and LCD TVs are generally more rectangular than monitors, but those are the main differences.

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Consumers, moreover, are gravitating toward larger, wider monitors which could function as televisions. An HP notebook with at 17-inch screen is selling quite well, McDonnell said. In the future, the company will likely sell notebooks with 18- and 20-inch screens.

"These machines (the 17-inch screen notebooks) never leave the house," he said

Since HP will already have to design these behemoth screens, there is little reason the company couldn't start designing and selling televisions.

"What is happening is that bigger and bigger displays can work great as TVs," he said. "It is going to make more sense for us to have wider screen displays."

Similarly, HP already sells projectors, an essentially ingredient in projection screen televisions.

Although the sponsors of the five-day convention are positioning the event as a forum for corporate technology buyers, television is a dominant theme. Dell announced a new LCD television at the show, while Samsung Electronics announced monitors that can also be used as televisions. Other manufacturers that are in Las Vegas but not exhibiting on the Comdex show floor are also talking up plans for the television market.

"Everyone is new to this market," ViewSonic's Chu said. "It is wide open."

McDonnell declined to state conclusively when HP might enter the television market, but noted that the Consumer Electronics Show, another Las Vegas convention, comes in January.

McDonnell also said that HP plans to offer a portable digital music player at some point, but said the company would not have something on shelves in time for this year's holiday buying season. HP is likely to offer the player in conjunction with some sort of music download service, though such a service would likely come from a partner.

"The trick in that is trying to figure out where the money is," said McDonnell, referring to whether hardware makers can make money selling music, or just hardware.