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September 21, 2010

HP Makes Surprise Announcement of Printer with Detachable Android Tablet

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, TMCnet Contributor


Yesterday, Hewlett-Packard surprised just about everyone with the announcement of its new HP Photosmart eStation multi-function device (printer, scanner, fax, etc.). What's the surprise?

The device comes with a detachable 7-inch controller that is essentially a WiFi (News - Alert)-enabled Android 2.1 tablet that can access the Internet and run some specialized Android applications. The detachable controller offers “one-touch access to customized content from Yahoo,” including mail, messenger, search and weather. It also comes with apps to print from Facebook (News - Alert) and Snapfish, according to HP.

The device was unveiled in New York at a press conference. HP product manager Craig Stein stated that “any Internet page that is accessible via typical Android (News - Alert) running devices should be accessible on the 7-inch removable display.” The printer itself is a relatively high end consumer or small business ink jet that prints at 9,600 by 2,400 dpi.

The company was quick to stress that the device was not intended to act as a stand-alone, but was designed to work in conjunction with the printer. “The product we aimed to design here is one that really has its origins in print and that customers today are printing a lot of content that is on the Web and we're trying to make it easier to get to that content without having to power-up a PC,” said Stein.

It has not escaped observer and tech analyst notice that the device's “one-touch access to customized content from Yahoo” feature is a little weird for a piece of equipment running a Google (News - Alert) operating system, but there it is. Another small mystery is why HP would use the Android platform rather than the Palm platform, which it now owns.

Larry Magid, tech journalist for the Huffington Post, wrote, “It's interesting that the device uses Android instead of the Palm OS which is now HP's thanks to its recent acquisition of Palm. I was told that this device was in the works prior the acquisition.” Magid also observed that given that the HP eStation's price tag (News - Alert) is about $100 higher than units with comparable printing, scanning and faxing capabilities, he's not sure that the detachable Android tablet's limited capabilities will make up the difference for most consumers.


Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.


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