Like a sidekick supporting a hero, a peripheral used to need a computer. Now peripherals are becoming more like the computer, a development that may make sidekicks everywhere rejoice. The latest peripheral-as-computer incarnation is the HP DreamScreen, a wireless display that can surf the Web, connect to Facebook, or present photos, music and video.
Announced Thursday, the DreamScreen is a piano-black, flush-glass widescreen, measuring 10.2 inches for the model 100 and 13.3 inches for the 130. Hewlett-Packard said the units are designed to fit on a nightstand, dresser, kitchen counter, or coffee table.
Facebook, Snapfish, Pandora
Wireless connectivity is 802.11 b or g, and the screen is designed for easy access to such sites as Facebook. Through a Facebook icon, a user can view status updates of friends, photos and other information.
Snapfish photos, slideshows and albums can be readily accessed, and there are five-day weather forecasts for cities around the planet, a built-in clock, tones or music for alarms, and a calendar view. Videos can be watched full-screen, and photos and music can be streamed wirelessly from a PC.
The device has two gigabytes of built-in memory for storing media, and content can also be read from a USB drive or several types of flash memory cards. Files can be streamed wirelessly by dragging and dropping on the virtual desktop of a networked PC.
Hi-fi speakers are built-in, along with connections for headphones or external speakers. Music streaming from the Internet is made possible through the Pandora service, plus a new service, HP SmartRadio. SmartRadio aggregates more than 10,000 radio-station Internet broadcasts that are selectable by location or genre.
The 'Fourth Screen'
Ross Rubin, direction of industry analysis for consumer technology at the NPD Group, noted that other peripherals are also beginning to make a play for a starring role.
He noted that ASUS has shown the Eee Keyboard, a full computer with Wi-Fi and a five-inch touchscreen, and Pogoplug from Cloud Engines is a USB drive that can be connected to the Internet.
HP has also recently stepped up its effort to make some of its printers into stand-alone, multifeatured devices, part of its Print 2.0 strategy. The HP Photosmart Premium printer with TouchSmart Web has simplified access to printing Web-based content without a computer.
With the DreamScreen, Rubin said HP is making "a bid to create the fourth screen" that will join the screens of TV, cell phones, and the PC. DreamScreen, he said, is a "superset of the digital picture frame," turning that product from an appliance into a feature-laden device.
The DreamScreen 100, at a suggested retail price of $249, is now available from online retailers and, in early October, from such brick-and-mortar outlets as Best Buy. The 130 model, at $299, is expected to be released later this fall.