HP Bets on Google With the Help of Nvidia

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- After years of strategic and executional debacle, HP (HPQ) is undergoing avariety of divorces and entering new relationships as part of thesurgery it takes to find itself a future in the personal computingbusiness. By personal computing, I mean PCs, tablets, as well asin the future also likely smartphones.

Let's start by mentioning HP's relationship with Microsoft ( MSFT). To besure, HP will continue working closely with Microsoft in allconceivable product categories -- as they should. This includes PCs,tablets and smartphones.

What is important to realize, however, is that until very recentlyMicrosoft was HP's exclusive partner in these areas. In a few shortmonths, this exclusive relationship has started to change.

In February, HP launched two new products based on Google ( GOOG) operating systems:
  1. A 14-inch Chrome OS laptop ("Chromebook") based on an Intel CPU,priced at $330.
  2. A 7-inch Android tablet based on a RockChip CPU, priced at $169.

The HP Chromebook has just recently started shipping, and I will mostlikely be reviewing it starting in a matter of days from now. It'sbasically a laptop for any person seeking security, speed andsimplicity. The laptop doesn't require any maintenance, anti-virusupdates or complicated set-up. Just open it up and you can startworking in a matter of approximately 10 seconds.

Furthermore, there are no expensive warranties or software you wouldbother buying. It's $330 and that's it -- forever. Other than that,its main selling point is that it is the only Chromebook in the marketwith a screen size larger than 13 inches. It's basically the ultimateproductivity tool, certainly anywhere close to $330.

The $169 Android tablet, on the other hand, is a more dubious firstentry in the market. The product is too closely matched with Asus'Nexus 7, which costs only $30 more. It really doesn't bring anythingnew to the market, other than the slightly lower price.

HP's Next Step With Google

Tuesday, I got a chance to see a demo of HP's latest Android device,a 10.1-inch screen tablet-laptop combo-convertible running Android.This device will become available in August and cost $480. Aside from Nvidia's ( NVDA) own Shield gaming device, it is the first specific product tobe announced that's based on the Tegra 4 CPU/GPU.

Here is the demo that I saw that was very impressive: It was abrowser load test. Basically, a script that causes the browser toload one Web page after another, a couple of dozen of them.

In many ways, this mimics the kind of usage that many people have inthe real world. For example, on the Asus Nexus 7 from last summer -- adevice famously powered by Nvidia's Tegra 3 CPU/GPU -- loading Webpages is relatively slow, in my opinion.

On the contrary, loading Web pages on this Nvidia Tegra 4-based HPlaptop/tablet was extremely fast. I tried the same test on a SamsungNexus 10 side-by-side. The Samsung Nexus 10 is widely considered tobe one of the fastest Android devices in the market.

In this test, the Nvidia Tegra 4-based HP device completed the test injust under half the time of the Samsung Nexus 10. Watching it loadthose Web pages, it was blazing fast.

Now, on the Nexus 10, the browser was Google's Chrome -- widelyconsidered to be the best browser in the world. On the HP, it was the"old" Android browser, which Nvidia has "enhanced" in some nondescriptway. I would like to see the same test done with the Chrome browserrunning on the Tegra 4-based HP device.

Will HP be successful in selling this 10.1-inch tablet-laptopconvertible for $480, starting in August? It's hard to tell.Computex is coming up, and companies such as Asus, Acer and Lenovo areexamples of those that will likely compete fiercely in this field,possibly also by August. Will those companies also run Nvidia's Tegra4? Who knows? Some may.

My personal opinion is that this is a somewhat tough product segmentfor something that's meant to be sold with a keyboard. A 10.1-inchscreen doesn't lend itself for productivity, such as authoring thisarticle. The screen needs to be at a minimum 11.6 inches, andpreferably somewhere between 12- and 13-something inches. That's whenyou have a comfortable laptop for proper productivity.

I think the people at Apple ( AAPL) over the years -- from Steve Jobs to TimCook -- have an excellent point in terms of their view that a productneeds to primarily do one thing well -- not try to do everything well. You could combine a fridge with a toaster, but why?

Microsoft's and Google's hardware partners seem to believe that a tabletand laptop may successfully reside in the same hardware. I am not sosure. I believe a tablet is fundamentally a different product, moreclosely related to a cellphone than a laptop.

Tablets can be anywhere from seven or so inches in display size to 10 orso inches. Laptops, however, as I said before, aren't really usefuluntil they hit 11.6 inches -- preferably a little larger than thatstill.

This is a hard fact to overcome. Apple has its laptops -- that startat 11.6 inches -- and it's got 10- and 8-inch tablets. They areoptimized for very different uses. I would never type thisarticle on an iPad unless I had involuntarily lost my laptop.

Anyway, what is clear here are three things:
  1. HP is no longer basing all of its products on Microsoft.
  2. HP is making major bets on Google -- both Android and Chrome OS.
  3. Nvidia is playing a leading role in making HP's Google-basedproducts as powerful as possible.

In this big scheme of things, this is no small deal. Nvidia is nowplaying in a much higher league than it used to in the past.

At the time of publication the author was long GOOG, AAPL and NVDA.

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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