What Use Is A Desktop In A Mobility-Centric World?


HP is pushing a mobile strategy, but its new Pavilion desktop PCs show the tower remains close to its heart, says Nicholas Kolakowski

It’s an increasingly mobile world. The rise of smartphones and tablets has ushered in an era of “the PC in your pocket,” and each succeeding device seems to cram more and more memory and processing power into a smaller and smaller form-factor.

Within this context, what use is the traditional desktop? Placed side-by-side with the latest tablet, the traditional “beige box” seems not only antiquated, but just about as fossilised as a tyrannosaur.

Nonetheless, businesses and some consumers continue to purchase desktops. You can pack a lot of processing power into a sizable tower, which makes them useful for both cutting-edge games and industries that require a lot of modeling and rendering. That puts the onus on manufacturers to keep making them — while taking the latest trends into account.

It’s all in the design

Enter Hewlett-Packard, whose new line of HP Pavilion desktop PCs seeks to thread the needle between giving workers and consumers the under-the-hood power they expect from a desktop, along with the design cues and slimmer sizing more recently associated with the laptops and tablets that have come to dominate the market in recent quarters.

These desktops feature glossy panels over a matte metallic base, creating a look totally different from the beige box of yesteryear. Those panels also slide up to disguise the various ports and drives. As with HP’s new line of laptops, the company seems determined to introduce a design language that connotes sleek — its bid to compete not only with Dell and Lenovo, but also Apple.

HP’s offerings include the HP Pavilion p7 series PCs, with massive hard-drive space and built-in support for multichannel surround sound. There’s also the HP HPE h8 series PCs, offered with up to three internal hard drives, AMD Phenom or Intel Core i7 processors, high-end Nvidia or ATI graphics, and support for multiple displays.

For those who want their desktop tower a bit more on the portable side, there’s also the HP Pavilion Slimline s5 series PCs, which HP claims are half the size of conventional PC towers. The devices in this line certainly look compact, the sort of tower suited for a particularly cramped office or dorm room. As with seemingly all of the higher-end devices in its various hardware lines, HP is offering Beats Audio for select desktop models, along with HP LinkUp.

HP eyes new frontiers

A company as large as HP can roadmap products that speak to both the mobility and power sides of the equation. That being said, the manufacturer is also taking additional steps to enter the cloud. In March, newly minted CEO Leo Apotheker suggested that his company was on the verge of introducing a new PAAS (platform as a service) business, which would include a new applications store. HP is also planning to import webOS, its mobile operating system acquired last year along with Palm, into a variety of devices, ranging from tablets to PCs.

“The webOS is an unbelievably attractive piece of technology in that it can interconnect seamlessly a number of various devices,” Apotheker told a gathering of analysts and media March 14. “It is simply an outstanding web operating system.”

But HP is offering no definitive timeline for when webOS will find its way into more earthbound products like its newest towers.

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