Hewlett-Packard rolled out Thursday the Envy x2, a Windows 8-based convertible notebook that will serve as the PC giant's answer to Microsoft's Surface tablet.
One of three Windows 8-powered devices launched by HP Thursday -- two new Ultrabooks were also unveiled -- the Envy x2 embodies a half-tablet, half-notebook form factor, complete with a magnetized and detachable keyboard. Consumers will have the option of using the 11.6-inch HD touch display as a stand-alone tablet, or attaching it to a keyboard for a more laptop-like experience.
The Envy x2 will go head-to-head against a number of other Windows 8 hybrid PCs when it launches later this year, including Dell's XPS 10, Acer's Iconia W510 and Microsoft's own Surface tablet PC.
Microsoft's unexpected jump into the tablet market this June has pitted it against some of its largest OEM partners, which have been readying their own Windows 8 devices for this fall. But John Solomon, senior vice president of Americas sales for HP's Printing and Personal Systems division, recently told CRN in an interview that he does not consider Microsoft Surface to be a major threat to HP's tablet game.
"I believe Microsoft was basically making a leadership statement and showing what's possible in the tablet space," Solomon said in the interview. "Our relationship has not changed at all due to Microsoft's announcement. In fact, I applaud it -- I think it's great that they are getting out in front and [showing] what's possible."
Lenovo, another major OEM partner of Microsoft's, also told CRN recently that it does not view Surface as a threat to the success of its own Windows 8 tablets.
The Envy x2 is the first come-back device for HP in the ultra-competitive tablet market, a space in which it has failed to compete against mobile giants Apple and Google in the past. Last August, HP stopped production of its TouchPad tablet after only six weeks on the market, following a string of price cuts that failed to boost consumer demand.
The defunct TouchPad ran HP’s homegrown operating system WebOS, a product which has since been spun-off into its own business unit called Gram. But, much of the success of HP's new tablet push will depend on whether Windows 8 will be able to compete against Android, or even Apple's iOS, said Rick Jordan, director of mobility sales and strategic alliances at Tenet Computer Group, a Toronto, Ontario-based solution provider and HP partner.
"The [Metro User Interface] is a significant change and will definitely require a learning curve to master. For those firmly entrenched in the 'Start' button way of doing things in the corporate world, there may be a few calls made to the local Help Desk should training not be implemented prior to deployment," Jordan told CRN. "Are there enough improvements in Windows 8 over Windows 7? That remains to be seen."
NEXT: HP's Envy x2 Specs, Windows 8-Based Ultrabooks
The tablet portion of the Envy x2 weighs 1.5 pounds, about the same as Microsoft's Windows RT-based Surface tablet, and half a pound lighter than its full Windows 8 Pro version. HP said the new device will come with Near Field Communication technology to let users easily share content such as photos and contacts, along with a new HP app called Connected Photo that can synch photos across multiple devices.
Cognizant of the competition the Envy x2 will face from the mass of other Windows 8-based devices set to launch this year, and, of course, the uphill battle it will fight against iOS and Android, HP has said it will arm its channel partners with a 60-day financing program for tablets and other devices under a newly launched partner program. Microsoft, for its part, does not plan to sell Surface through the channel.
Pricing details for Microsoft Surface or HP's Envy x2 have not been disclosed.
HP also debuted Thursday two new Windows 8-based Ultrabooks, the 15.6-inch Spectre TouchSmart and the 14-inch Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4, both of which are touch-enabled.
The new Spectre TouchSmart is the first notebook from HP to include Intel's Thunderbolt USB technology, which allows for the faster transfer of data, music and other content to external devices. It weighs 4.77 pounds, measures 0.7 inches thick and runs on Intel's Ivy Bridge processors. HP said the Spectre TouchSmart will be available starting in December for $1,399.
A price has not been confirmed for the Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4, but its specs are similar to that of the Spectre. It weighs in at 4.77 pounds and is a slightly thicker 0.9 inches. HP said it gets up to eight hours of battery life -- a spec that wasn't disclosed for either the Spectre of the Envy x2 convertible tablet -- and comes with an optional AMD graphics card with 2 GB of graphics memory.
The TouchSmart Ultrabook also runs on Intel's latest Ivy Bridge Core processors, and it is expected to be readily available in time for the holiday season.
PUBLISHED AUG. 30, 2012
This story was updated on Sept. 5, 2012, at 12:25 p.m. PST, in order to make the correction that the TouchPad ran HP's homegrown operating system WebOS and not Google's Android OS.