Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ:US), an also-ran in the mobile-device business, unveiled a 7-inch consumer tablet today in its second attempt to break into the growing market as demand wanes for desktop computers and laptops.
The Slate 7, introduced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today, runs on Google Inc. (GOOG:US)’s Android operating system and will go on sale in the U.S. in April with a planned starting price of $169. It will be the first in a line of new consumer products that Hewlett-Packard will start selling this year, said Alberto Torres, a former Nokia Oyj (NOK1V) executive brought in to run the computer maker’s mobility unit.
“We’re moving very fast,” Torres said in an interview. “It’s an important part of being successful in this market.”
Hewlett-Packard, the largest personal-computer maker, exited the consumer tablet market in 2011 when it killed its TouchPad device running on the WebOS operating system from its Palm Inc. unit. As more consumers replace their PCs with tablets, the company is taking another shot at the market now dominated by Apple Inc. (AAPL:US) and Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) as it tries to stem declining sales and profit.
Making devices that run a plethora of software is also a strategy that Palo Alto, California-based Hewlett-Packard is pursuing, enabling it to target a variety of price bands. Earlier this month, it announced a laptop running Chrome, another Google operating system. The company also sells a tablet running Microsoft Corp.’s Windows 8 operating system for business customers.
“We’re moving to a world that’s going to be a multi-OS world,” Chief Executive Officer Meg Whitman said in an interview last week.
In the consumer-tablet market, Hewlett-Packard faces stiff competition from rivals including Amazon.com Inc., which sells the 7-inch Kindle Fire for $159 and Google itself, which sells the Nexus 7 for $199.
Apple’s iPad and iPad Mini, which has a 7.9-inch screen and starts at $329, controlled a 44 percent share of global tablet shipments in the fourth quarter of last year, according to market researcher IDC. Samsung’s tablets, with a 15-percent global share, start at $200 with the Galaxy Tab and Galaxy Note devices.
Hewlett Packard’s Slate has embedded sound-enhancing technology licensed from Beats Electronics LLC and its own ePrint wireless printing software, offering appeal over its rivals, Torres said.
The Slate features a dual-core 1.6 gigahertz processor from ARM Holdings Plc (ARM), eight gigabytes of memory, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, according to a statement by the company. The device will be offered in overseas markets later this year, said Marlene Somsak, a spokeswoman for Hewlett-Packard.
Hewlett-Packard on Feb. 21 forecast fiscal second-quarter earnings that topped analysts’ estimates, signaling its turnaround efforts are progressing. The shares surged 12 percent to close at $19.20 the following day.
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