Meet­ing the chal­lenge from phones and tablets, new mod­els will be af­ford­able, writes Jen­nifer Dud­ley- Ni­chol­son

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page - Jen­nifer Dud­ley- Ni­chol­son trav­elled to China as a guest of HP

Thin is def­i­nitely in

THE fu­ture of com­put­ing is thin, light and cheaper than you might ex­pect.

This is the pre­dic­tion from some of the in­dus­try’s big­gest names who gath­ered in Shang­hai this month to launch new lap­top lines, in­clud­ing a new cat­e­gory of af­ford­able, light­weight com­put­ers.

But while the fresh mod­els of­fer ad­vanced power, con­nec­tiv­ity and slick looks, they will also face one of the tough­est mar­kets in years.

PC sales are fall­ing world­wide, chal­lenged by tablet com­put­ers and smart­phones, and Australia is far from im­mune to the trend.

Some savvy con­sumers are also mak­ing the prob­lem worse by de­lay­ing PC pur­chases as they await the ar­rival of a speed­ier In­tel chip and Mi­crosoft Win­dows 8 soft­ware.

The world’s big­gest PC maker, HP, is seek­ing to kick the mar­ket into gear once more with light­weight lap­tops, un­veil­ing Ul­tra­books in China and a line of lap­tops dubbed Sleek­books.

HP con­sumer note­book busi­ness unit vice- pres­i­dent Kevin Frost says the com­pany is in­vest­ing heav­ily in thin, por­ta­ble lap­tops that com­ply with In­tel’s Ul­tra­book def­i­ni­tion, giv­ing the ‘‘ broad­est’’ range of the new com­put­ers.

To fall un­der the brand­ing, Ul­tra­books must be slim­mer than 2.1cm, of­fer more than five hours of bat­tery life, use In­tel Sandy Bridge pro­ces­sors and wake in less than seven sec­onds.

But Frost says the mar­ket for slim and light com­put­ers reaches be­yond the Ul­tra­book mar­ket, where prices of­ten ex­ceed $ 1000.

‘‘ We also be­lieve there’s a dif­fer­ent cus­tomer seg­ment for a dif­fer­ent com­puter and we’re call­ing this the Sleek­book,’’ he says.

The new Sleek­books will fea­ture slim pro­files like Ul­tra­books but will come with plas­tic rather than me­tal cas­ing, hard drives rather than solid­state stor­age, and AMD and In­tel Pen­tium pro­ces­sors rather than the lat­est and fastest In­tel chips.

HP’S first Sleek­book mod­els will also fea­ture sig­nif­i­cant price sav­ings over their Ul­tra­book broth­ers, with a 14- inch HP Envy Sleek­book ar­riv­ing this month for about $ 700. By com­par­i­son, newly an­nounced HP Ul­tra­book, the Envy Spec­tre XT, will cost about $ 1000 when it launches early next month.

The top- of- the- line com­puter will fea­ture a body that is just 1.45cm thin and 1.3kg, as well as a 13.1- inch screen, 128GB

stor­age and a bat­tery life of up to eight hours. Adobe photo and movie- edit­ing soft­ware, two years of Nor­ton an­tivirus pro­tec­tion and phone sup­port will be in­cluded. In­tel’s Aaron Arvizu says HP’S new slen­der com­put­ers, which add to Ul­tra­book launches from Len­ovo and Sam­sung, are im­por­tant as the in­dus­try faces a se­ri­ous chal­lenge from other com­put­ing sources.

PC sales are start­ing to slow. World­wide PC ship­ments fell 1.4 per cent at the end of last year, ac­cord­ing to Gart­ner, and rose just 1.9 per cent in the first quar­ter of this year, re­flect­ing ‘‘ worse than nor­mal PC ship­ment growth’’.

Gart­ner prin­ci­pal an­a­lyst Mikako Kita­gawa says com­puter sales have started to fall off as con­sumers wait for ‘‘ two big re­leases: In­tel’s Ivy Bridge and Mi­crosoft’s Win­dows 8’’.

But sales are ex­pected to leap as soon as they ar­rive.

SLICK: HP Envy Sleek­book.

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