HP announces new TouchSmart all-in-ones

Long before the iPad came along HP was trying to make touch work better on Windows. Today HP announced new versions of its touchscreen all-in-one PCs and an update to its TouchSmart software.

Back in the days when Steve Jobs was still deriding tablets as niche products, HP was trying to make touch work better on Windows (here's some previous coverage of its TouchSmart all-in-one PCs). Today HP announced new versions of its touchscreen AIOs and an updated version of the TouchSmart software.

HP is introducing two new AIOs: the TouchSmart 610 Consumer PC and the TouchSmart 9300 Elite Business PC. Both are based on a 23-inch LED-backlit display that reclines 60 degrees. This should make it more comfortable to walk up and view content on the wide-angle display and control the PC via the multi-touch. (If you've ever tried using a standard laptop with a multi-touch display, you know how difficult it can be to use touch input on a nearly vertical display.) The new display also tilts forward 5 degrees and swivels.

The consumer AIO also gets a TouchSmart refresh. HP has actually offered the touch-optimized versions of Hulu, Netflix, Rhapsody and Twitter (plus its own RecipeBox) for some time. What's really new here is the TouchSmart Apps Center for adding new apps, of course; support for HP's Beats Audio, which enhances the audio quality of music; and a LinkUp utility that lets you view and control other PCs on your home network via the TouchSmart AIO.

The TouchSmart 610 starts at $899.99 with 2.3GHz AMD Athlon II X4 605e quad-core processor, 4GB of memory, a 500GB hard drive (HP is currently offering a free upgrade to a 750GB drive) and a slot-loading DVD burner. It will be available for order starting February 9. The TouchSmart 9300 is designed for vertical markets such as retail stores and hospitals. It will use the new Intel Core processors (code-named Sandy Bridge), which have been delayed a few weeks because of a design flaw in the chipset. The TouchSmart 9300 will ship in May.

The TouchSmart software does make the touch experience on Windows better. But the big test will be the next version of Windows, which Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has said will include a "major revamp" for slate-style tablets. Microsoft has its own Surface 2.0 solution for vertical markets, which it demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year, and it has also shown how the Kinect motion-controller for Xbox 360 could be used as another input method for these kinds of applications in the future.

Earlier coverage of HP TouchSmart PCs: