With the introduction this year of Apple's iPad, Samsung's Galaxy Tab, Dell's Streak, BlackBerry's PlayBook, etc, etc, we're getting used to the idea of using tablets to browse the web, access apps and do a few other tasks that were formerly in the domain of a PC. Although HP has been making tablet notebooks for a long time, the company hasn't yet made any announcements about a product to compete head-on in this hybrid space. Perhaps an early indication of the direction it may take can be found in its latest printer, the Photosmart eStation.
This crown jewel of HP's new printer line-up offers print, web-based fax, scanning and copying controlled by way of a detachable 7-inch touchscreen tablet that you can also use as a "digital companion". The tablet is designed to make it easy to print whatever you want using only the touch pad and HP's ePrint technology, which allows you to print any document or picture from the web using the unique email address assigned to the printer.
You can still operate the printer with the tablet detached, so multiple users can print to the eStation and make edits while another person commands the tablet portion. And like the HP Envy 100, it is also compatible with the beta version of Apple's AirPrint, a technology that allows wireless printing from any iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch devices connected to your home network without first installing drivers or downloading software.
The eStation touchscreen will come preloaded with customised apps that will provide access to email, music, an e-reader, Yahoo news, HP's online photo store Snapfish and, of course, FaceBook. An app called Quick Forms offers templates for calendars and games. HP says more apps to facilitate direct-from-web printing will be available for downloading as they are developed.
When not in use, the touchscreen sits on a cradle on the front of the printer. HP's media release calls this a Fallingwater-inspired design — we're not sure whether Frank Lloyd Wright would agree, but with a glossy black cladding, it is fairly stylish.
The eStation is capable of printing at resolutions up to 9600x2400dpi prints, thanks to the five-ink cartridge bay. Print speeds range to 33 pages per minute (ppm) for black and 32ppm colour.
The tablet feature is going to cost you, though — the HP Photosmart eStation printer retails for AU$699. But then again, you could think of it as a relatively inexpensive tablet with a printer thrown in…
The Photosmart eStation will be available in Australia after 1 November 2010 from selected Harvey Norman stores.