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Fri, Apr 06, 2007 - Page 10 News List

Hewlett-Packard sets its sights on gamers

BIG BUSINESS HP said it would begin selling game gear later this year, targeting PC, mobile and online gaming in line with its plan to become a major player in the field


Hewlett-Packard Co (HP) on Wednesday showed off innovations it said were at the heart of a plan to become a major player in the multibillion dollar computer game market.

HP used a San Francisco art and film studio as the setting to demonstrate gaming creations that sprang from collaboration with engineers at VoodooPC, a Canada-based premier computer game company HP bought last September.

HP has its sights set on winning computer game business from rival US computer maker Dell Inc.

"I can assure you that when we start playing in that space, the gloves are coming off," said Rahul Sood, chief technical officer of HP global gaming and founder of VoodooPC.

HP said it would begin selling computer game gear later this year featuring innovations such as mobile technologies that can organize and enhance games played outdoors.

HP is targeting mobile, online and computer gaming and does not intend to go head-to-head with video game consoles made by Sony Corp, Microsoft Corp or Nintendo Co, according to Sood.


"All of our customers own consoles as well as personal computers," Sood said. "The truth is we are looking to build an ecosystem where all sorts of gamers have access to our technology."

Technologies demonstrated by HP Labs included a curved computer display designed to "immerse" gamers in action and a way to incorporate city streets in games played on the move with wireless handheld devices.

The company has installed new gaming features into a home coffee table dubbed "Misto," which features a built-in computer, stereo speakers and a touch-screen for a top.

People can play casual digital games such as puzzles, cards and chess on Misto, or use the screen to display photos, videos or surf the Internet.

HP's move into the hard-core gaming zone was welcomed by Microsoft director of Games for Windows Rich Wickham, who was among those treated to a glimpse of what HP is toying with for computer games.

HP's plan to work with game hardware and software makers heralded increased unity and collaboration in the fractured personal computer game industry, according to Wickham.

Major computer chip makers such as Intel Corp and Advanced Micro Devices Inc make powerful processors designed for demanding computer games, computer maker Dell makes an elite system popular with gamers and numerous companies craft products to enhance play.

Cool stuff

"We are thrilled with the focus HP is bringing to gaming," Wickham said. "They have some really cool stuff."

Maximizing the gaming potential of personal computers could render video game consoles obsolete, said Trion World Network founder Lars Butler, who was part of a panel discussion with Wickham and other industry leaders.

"I believe the days of the console are numbered," Butler said. "There is one more generation of gaming consoles and that is it."

Trion develops and publishes games for broadband computer systems.

"Our advantage as developers is we know what is coming," said NVIDIA vice president Roy Taylor, who was among the panelists. "And what is coming is far ahead of the console. You will see a huge difference between what you can get on a PC and a console."

HP Gaming general manager Philip McKinney confided during an evening of hands-on demonstrations that HP Labs has given Voodoo free rein to use its M-Scape mobile gaming and other developments to put new products on the market this year.

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