HP Touts New 'Sleekbooks,' But Will They Confuse Customers?


Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman wants to make it easier for customers to do business with the company, but one partner said it is debatable whether adding a "sleekbook" category is a step in this direction.

HP trotted out the sleekbook label for the first time at last week's Global Influencer event in Shanghai, China, using it to describe its new line of thin, lightweight notebooks that come with AMD processors, traditional hard drives and plastic casings. Sleekbooks don't meet Intel's rigid specification for Ultrabooks.

However, HP's sleekbooks could confuse customers that are still trying to get their heads around what differentiates an Ultrabook from a regular notebook, one longtime HP partner told CRN.

"What HP continues to fail to understand and recognize is that people embrace simplicity with great functionality," said the partner, who requested anonymity. "People don't want another name -- they want a product that works well, and Apple has proven that they'll pay a premium for that."

Another problem is that HP has taken to using the word "sleek" to describe its Ultrabooks. In its press release for the EliteBook Folio 9470m Ultrabook, HP touts its "sleek, lightweight design."

In a pretaped video appearance at HP's launch event, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer also used "sleek" to describe the design of HP's new Ultrabooks. Clearly, this adjective hits the target vendors are aiming at with their new notebook designs.

Things could get even more muddled if HP decides to trademark the term "sleekbooks." Deron Kershaw, a notebook analyst at research firm Gap Intelligence, said this would force other PC makers to come up with another way of branding their lightweight laptops that don't meet Intel's requirements.

Whatever they're called, sleekbooks are less expensive than Ultrabooks, and that will undoubtedly make them attractive to PC buyers, Kershaw said. HP's 15.6-inch Envy sleekbook, which will hit store shelves on June 20, is priced starting at $600.

"Consumers want affordable ultrathin laptops with long battery life, whether they're called 'Ultrabooks' or not," said Kershaw. "I think HP is simply addressing this market and letting shoppers know, through branding, that they have slim profiles."