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HP targets mainstream with new convertible tablet

The new 4200 joins HP’s existing TC1100 tablet PC, which offered a smaller, more mobile product weighing in at four pounds with a keyboard attached. The TC4200 will weigh in at 4.5 pounds and will come without the detachable keyboard offered on the TC1100. Indeed, the TC4200 looks much like a normal notebook — in fact, other than the screen being mounted on a swivel so that it can be closed in tablet mode, the machine is virtually identical to HP’s new NC4200 ultraportable notebook.

Ted Clark, senior vice president and general manager of the mobile computing global business unit inside HP’s new Imaging and Personal Systems Group, said that thus far, tablet PC “has met our expectations,” but that the new product is designed to drive the tablet into the mainstream with a lower price point and a form factor that’s more familiar to the average notebook user.

“We would like to see [the Tablet PC market] go a little faster, and we believe we can help it to grow a little bit more,” he said.

This far, the tablet has mostly been a success story in a few select markets — most notable for executives looking for a productivity tool, for selected field sales roles, and for specific verticals such as medical and insurance. But with the TC4200, the company is going for a more horizontal approach, according to Dan Reio, product marketing manager for commercial notebooks at HP Canada, especially with a price delta between a TC4200 and a similarly-configured TC1100 of less than $150.

“We expect that a lot of people will be able to benefit from it,” Reio said. “Right now, ultraportables make up 10 per cent of the overall notebook market for us, and we would expect to see more of those ultraportables being tablets, as they look at the NC4200 and the TC4200, and decide that for a small additional fee, they can do so much more.”

Interestingly, Reio notes that the SMB market has already been a good market for tablets, but largely with specialized companies, or with more general organizations, but then only at the executive level. However, the TC4200 has the ability to appeal to the more mainstream notebook user, as well as not being as different for notebook users who may have been “scared off’ by the more radical design of the TC1100.

The TC4200 tablet PC is slated for release in Canada in late March or early April, with a price tag of $2,599 for a 1.86 GHz model with a 60GB hard drive, 512 MB of RAM, 802.11b/g wireless and Bluetooth. A more-basic model featuring a 1.73 GHz processor, a 40 GB hard drive, 512 MB of RAM and 802.11b/g but no Bluetooth will carry a $1949 price tag.

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