The touch screen mobile device is common enough at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, but Hewlett-Packard was showing of what a touch screen can do when it gets bigger and stays in the living room.
Sporting a 19 screen and looking more like a television, the Dream Screen 400 is something that isn't designed to replace a PC or a tablet, says Sankar Sundaresan director of strategy for the personal systems group (which also covers HP's mobile devices, including the Slate).
The Dream Screen was designed around the idea that people might not want or need a general purpose computer, but would like a living room appliance that allows for watching movies, a bit of gaming, and listening to music. It runs on a stripped-down Linux-based operating system, and can surf the web (using a version of Firefox).
Sundaresan says in countries such as India, the learning curve for using a PC is sometimes seen as too steep for what amounts to a living room appliance. On top of that, a PC isn't usually set up to operate in the local language (the Dream Screen can be set to work in several of India's languages, and display type in Devanagari script). The interface is kept simple. The operating system is also Flash-compatible, which means streaming video from a Netflix or Hulu is not a problem.
The device has to have a wireline or wireless carrier bringing the Internet access, and HP has partnered with Airtel and Tata in India. It is priced at about 20,000 rupees, or $440. That's reasonably competitive with an ordinary television, Sundaresan says, since most of the time in India you need a cable subscription in any case.
A flat screen TV in India can typically cost 25,000 to 30,000 rupees. For people that want to do a very narrow set of tasks and don't want to invest in a laptop, this is a good solution.
HP estimates there are 50 million homes in India that might buy something like this. And with the ability to connect to the Internet wirelessly expands the potential market.
The Dream Screen was originally rolled out late in 2010. Sundaresan says he sees it as a good entry-level computing appliance for emerging markets generally.