HP unveils low-cost mini-laptop for education market

Rough and tumble laptop aimed at K-12 school children

Hewlett-Packard unveiled a low-cost mini-laptop this week that's aimed at the education market.

The HP 2133 Mini-Note PC, which has a starting price of less than US$500, is a rugged machine with an 8.9-in. diagonal WXGA display - three inches smaller than HP's next smallest laptop screen. The full-featured laptop is aimed at education markets in North American, Europe and parts of Asia as well as at low-end business travelers, according to Carol Hess-Nickels, a spokesman for HP.

At slightly more than two and a half pounds, the HP 2133 weighs less than a lot of textbooks, said Hess-Nickels. Instead of using a processor from Intel or Advanced Micro Devices, it has a single-core C7-M microprocessor from Taiwan-based Via Technologies.

With HP the top PC and laptop maker, releasing a product for the education market is a strong move, said Richard Shim, a research manager with IDC.

"HP has been riding a wave of growth. They're number one in notebooks and number one in PCs," added Shim. "This isn't the type of product that you establish market share with. They're putting a product out there because they don't want to be left on the sidelines if there's tremendous growth in this category. Everybody is hedging their bets by coming out with a product. HP is going after a segment they know exists by going after education."

Although Intel just last week unveiled a newly architected, low-power Atom processor line designed for mobile Internet devices, HP didn't pick the chip for use in this small form-factor computer. "It's interesting because of the price it's at, the processor it uses and the form factor it's in," said Shim.

The laptop has a nearly full-size keyboard, which is also spill resistant. It also has HP DuraKeys, which consists of a clear coating applied over the keyboard that protects the finish, printed letters and characters. To help make the machine more rugged, it has an all-aluminum casing with a magnesium alloy structure, along with a scratch-resistant acrylic covering.

"This is for K-12," said Hess-Nickels. "They're going to be rough on the units so we needed to make them durable, while retaining the price point."

The HP 2133 also has several optional features, such as a Web cam and Bluetooth wireless technologies.

HP will begin shipping the mini-laptop on April 15.

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