HP Putting a New Touch on Windows Vista

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Besides making computers prettier and more secure, the next release of Windows will open new markets, PC makers hope. Hewlett-Packard, for example, is showing off its new TouchSmart PC, which makes use of Windows Vista to combine a touch-screen with a full-fledged media server. HP is aiming the device toward the kitchen, or other family center, with software that organizes calendars and to-do lists, as well as media like photos and music.

Vista is crucial because it's the first time that Microsoft will combine its Windows software for managing photos, music, and video–previously only available as a special XP version called Media Center Edition–with the touch-screen capabilities, which were only available under XP as its Tablet edition. "We needed those features together to make something like the TouchSmart possible," says Maureen Kelly, the HP product's marketing manager. Both will be part of Vista Home Premium, one of five Vistas being sold when the operating system goes on the market late this month.

A touch-screen seems a great addition to a family PC, making it easier for quick tasks like finding a recipe or jotting a note. But the HP software is limited, particularly by its inability to sync data with other programs. And the TouchSmart will be pricey, at $1,800, partly because touch-screens are expensive.

The TouchSmart PC also will be available at the end of this month as part of several products HP is releasing to capitalize on Vista's release.