HP has been pushing its TouchSmart series of multitouch-capable all-in-one PCs for at least three product generations, now, and with the second generation came a business-oriented model. A new revision of that unit was shown off recently, and we spent some hands-on time with the device.
Technology companies the world over are finally starting to pick up on something computer companies like Apple have known for years: software sells hardware. If you have an innovative new offering, no one is going to buy it unless you can convince them that its capabilities can make their lives easier. Enter the business-oriented HP TouchSmart 9100. While it may look and feel similar to its more consumer-friendly cousins, the 9100 comes built with different internal components and packed with a number of programs better able to cater to the needs of business users.
The new TouchSmart 9100’s design builds on the legacy of the previous generation of TouchSmart devices; at a casual glance you’d be hard pressed to notice anything different at all. Look a little closer, however, and there’s a number of changes. This revision uses a 23-inch, 1920×1080 glass display capable of multitouch sensory input. Multitouch in this case means two and only two fingers. The same keyboard that we loved from the first version is back, its slim profile and laptop-style keys accompanied by a basic, if serviceable wireless mouse.
Unlike the new consumer-oriented TouchSmart 300 and 600 desktops, the TouchSmart 9100 isn’t designed to run the traditional TouchSmart skin that covers the basic Windows desktop (although it can). Instead, these units are designed to be outfitted with customized software and themes that serve specific purposes relevant to the business and task at hand. HP is actually working with third-party software vendors that span industries as diverse as retail, education and healthcare and hospitality, so companies can approach the PC maker with their problem and HP will be able to point them to an ISV that can best take care of that specific business need.
The HP mockup on the left gives an idea of what a branded/sponsored TouchSmart unit could look like. You might find the 9100 in a hospitality room or box at a sporting event. One of the applications we used let users look over highlights and replays from a basketball game. The TouchSmart could make for a tremendously cohesive user experience at games – imagine watching the game live, then using the 9100 to check constantly updated clips of tense moments. You want to replay that amazing court-length shot? Not a problem. Meanwhile, as the replay is going, use the rest of the screen to bring up a player’s or team’s stats. While the software for this isn’t quite there, it definitely has an interesting future.
Surprisingly, one of the most interesting applications we got to see and use was an interactive wedding dress database created for Priscilla of Boston. I know, I know, but hear us out. Weddings, and all the related paraphernalia, are often a time of great stress, especially for the bride, and this interactive shopping program could definitely go a long ways toward smoothing things out. Currently, prospective brides have to go into a shop, browse through dozens or potentially hundreds of dresses, select a few, try them out, look in a mirror, walk around the store, see how they move, etc, etc. Not any more.
Now, imagine walking in, sitting down on a comfortable couch with a glass of champagne and flicking through the entire store’s inventory, all present on the TouchSmart’s screen. Shoppers can instantly pick the designers, styles and colors they want, and all of the dresses that match all of those descriptors appear on screen. Each dress is shown being worn, with videos available so that women can see the dresses walked down a runway. Instead of having to physically go through dozens of examples, or use old books and imagine what alternate colors might look like, brides can now just hit a button and see their dress or those of their bridesmaids in any of a number of different colors. Possible future updates could include involving the integrated camera to literally show the buyer in the dress of their choice — all without trying anything on.
The screen was bright and vivid, and the responsiveness has been vastly improved over former editions. A lot of this has to do with updates to the software and driver models, as well as the fact that Windows 7 was designed to offer integrated multitouch functionality, rather than suffer to have it hacked in by third party vendors such as HP. In fact, some of HP’s work in the areas of touch and multitouch was actually given to Microsoft and integrated within the Windows code. Applications are easy to build, too — while companies can go all the way and construct apps that take advantage of all the multitouch capabilities and other features offered by the TouchSmart, they can also take the short path and write simple Flash apps that respond to simple inputs. Either way, they’re an easy and smart means by which to draw customers in.
Overall, the new HP TouchSmart 9100 is a solid piece of kit with a number of oustanding features that make it attractive to any number of business looking to upgrade their current customer experience. The build quality remained as solid as the last models, and the real draw to these units, the software, looks better than ever.
TouchSmart 9100 Specifications:
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo T6570 @ 2.1GHz (2MB L2, 800MHz FSB) or P7570 @ 2.26GHz (3MB L2, 1066MHz FSB)
- Memory: up to 8GB DDR3
- Display: 23-inch 1920×1080 glass multitouch screen with integrated webcam and dual microphones
- Operating system: Windows 7 Home Professional 32 and 64-bit
- Hard drive: 250GB to 500GB SATA @ 7200 or optional 64GB SSD
- Optical drive: SuperMulti DVD+/-RW with LightScribe or Blu-ray combo drive
- Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 200 (integrated) or GT230M (discrete)
- Networking: Gigabit Ethernet
- Audio: Integrated HD audio and built-in stereo speakers
- Inputs: 5 USB2.0 (2 front, 3 back), FireWire, audio in and out
- Optional TV tuner with IR blaster and additional audio and video inputs
- Dimensions: 22.8 x 2.8 x 17.6 inches (WxDxH)
- Weight: 9.2 lbs
- Warranty: One year limited hardware parts and labor with on-site, next business day service
The HP TouchSmart 9100 Business PC will have a starting price of $1299 with general availability starting on October 22nd.