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HP Dreams of Managing Your Digital Home

New York Times reports that Hewlett-Packard is looking for a second act. Apparently, it now hopes that people will view it as an innovative consumer electronics company. In 2007 it will have the opportunity to prove that it's worthy of that title.

Its turnaround was confirmed this year when profits from PCs and corporate servers and storage devices nearly doubled from a year earlier. It sold more PCs than any other maker and claimed the title of the world's largest technology company. Now it has to sustain those gains.

Hewlett-Packard is clearly benefiting from the shift in consumer preferences toward notebook PCs. As the entertainment-obsessed consumer shifts toward ever more mobile devices like hand-held video players and phones that can function as mini-PCs, the company wants to be ready with always-connected devices that may blur the differences between a PC and consumer electronic devices.

"It is an important part of the vision we have," said Shane Robinson, H.P. chief technology officer. These 'managed home' products may be the toughest part of the company's growth strategy to execute.

H.P. has been selling TVs for several years, even selling them in Best Buy, the nation's largest consumer electronics retailer. But it has not broken into the upper ranks of TV makers, where Sony, Samsung and Sharp hold court.

For his part, Mark Hurd, H.P. CEO said "The managed home will happen, but it may evolve at a slower pace than in the enterprise. You can spend a lot on the managed home and not get a return."

That time may be near. The company has three new but unheralded products that point in the direction it is headed. The 'Media Smart TV' is a flat-panel 37-inch liquid-crystal-display television that automatically pulls in content stored on a PC or other networked devices with a hard drive. It costs $2,000, a 50 percent premium over its regular 37-inch L.C.D. set.

The $570 'iPaq Travel Companion' is a hand-held device with a screen that lets users watch videos through a wireless connection to the Internet. And the 'Media Vault', a storage device, is attached to the home network to store music, movies and photos. It is priced at $350 to $500 depending on how much data it stores.

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