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HP Targets SMBs With Low-Cost Laptop Line

By Richard Adhikari
Apr 28, 2009 1:13 PM PT

HP on Tuesday announced its new ProBook s-series, a new line of low-cost notebooks for business users.

HP Targets SMBs With Low-Cost Laptop Line

Aimed at small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), the laptops focus on security, reliability and ease of use.

Users can select between Intel 4410 and AMD 4415 CPUs. For operating systems, buyers can opt for Windows Vista, downgradable to XP, or Novell Suse Linux Enterprise Desktop 11.

The line begins at under US$600.

More About ProBooks

There are three models in the ProBook s-series, two of which offer the option of Intel or AMD CPUs, and one docking station.

The AMD CPUs offered are the AMD Turion X2 and Athlon dual-core series or the AMD Sempron. Buyers who prefer Intel CPUs can get the Intel Core Duo, Celeron Dual-Core or the Intel Celeron.

[Click Image to Enlarge]

Users can choose high-performance ATI discrete graphics with 512 MB of dedicated video memory or integrated ATI UMA graphics.

Screen sizes are 14 inches, 15.6 inches or 17.3 inches, depending on the model.

The laptops are equipped with HP 3D DriveGuard, which protects the hard drive against impacts.

Taking Care of Business Users

ProBook laptops are equipped with an external modem port so business travelers can use them in countries that may not have broadband support, Sarah Bussell, an HP senior product manager, told TechNewsWorld.

The external modems can also be used for disaster recovery. "If a company's networks are down, its staff needs a way to connect, and they can do that through external modems," she said.

ProBook models with 15.6-inch and 17.3-inch screens are equipped with numeric keypads for business users, according to Bussell.

All ProBook models have HP QuickLook2 software preinstalled. This provides rapid access to email, calendar, and task and contact information.

Security for the Traveling Executive

The ProBook laptops come with various preinstalled security features and products, including HP Protect Tools. Protect Tools is an integrated suite of security control modules that protect a user's data and connections.

The laptops are also equipped with File Sanitizer for HP Protect Tools. This permanently deletes individual files, folders and personally identifiable information from the hard drive so the user can recycle the laptop without fear of information theft.

Users who forget their passwords can still access their laptops through the HP SpareKey feature. This puts up three predetermined personal identification questions the user has to answer.

The Operating System

Offering a version of Windows Vista that's downgradable to XP could be a selling point for the ProBook laptops. This capability has been offered by computer vendors for the past couple of years due to a lack of demand for Microsoft's newer operating system.

"There are some people who would rather run XP than Vista," Roger Kay, president of research firm Endpoint Technologies Associates, told TechNewsWorld.

However, Microsoft will stop supporting XP eventually. What happens then to customers who took the XP downgrade?

"We'll continue to support XP if Microsoft extends its support," HP spokesperson Mike Hockey told TechNewsWorld, "but there are a lot of choices out there, from Vista to Linux." [*Correction]

Most SMB users are anything but geeks, so why would HP offer Novell Suse Linux Enterprise Desktop 11 preinstalled as an option?

"Suse Linux 11 is the first version of Suse Linux that offers the domain join capability," according to Bussell. Domain join, she said, is a standard feature in business operating systems that lets users network their computers in an IT management environment.

Fighting Off the Competition

The ProBook line of laptops is a bid from HP to stave off competition, according to Endpoint's Kay.

"Acer is the leading notebooks vendor in Europe, even though HP is the market leader overall, and it's making a comeback in the U.S.," Kay said. "HP needs to put out something to defend its low-cost flank, so there's a defensive aspect to this announcement."

The ProBook line is inexpensive, starting at $529, although tacking on options could bring the price of the least expensive model to about $799, HP's Bussell said. "This segment is geared at giving a good set of features to SMBs at an affordable price."

*Correction: The original published version of this article stated that Microsoft would end its support of Windows XP in June and quoted HP spokesperson Mike Hockey as saying that HP would continue to support XP if Microsoft extended its support beyond June 30. In fact, Microsoft discontinued mainstream support of XP on April 14, 2009, and will discontinue extended support effective August 4, 2014.

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Digital River - Talk to the Experts