HP's comprehensive imaging solutions
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)
While almost everyone has heard of the romantic story of two young Stanford University graduates starting a company in a rented garage, Electronics giant Hewlett Packard is definitely not among those that come to mind when one thinks of traditional camera makers. Yet, these days Hewlett Packard is big in many consumer electronics markets. Since its acquisition of Compaq, HP has been one of the leading names in desktop and notebook personal computers. It practically owns the printer market, and its handheld iPAQ Pocket PCs and Pocket PC phones are legendary. It is therefore not surprising that HP has embraced the digital camera market as a crucial part of its overall consumer electronics strategy.
And make no mistake: "Strategy" is the keyword in all of HP's camera offerings. That's because when you buy a HP camera, you don't only buy a camera, you buy a part of HP's overall view of digital imaging, and the digital lifestyle according to HP in general. That quickly becomes evident when you install the HP Image Zone software that comes with every HP digital camera. It consists of many hundreds of megabytes of software that handles everything from data transfer, viewing, editing, scanning, printing, backing up and sharing. An HP "Solution Center" provides guidance on everything imaginable and direct-links to online facilities, software upgrades, online shops and troubleshooting. An HP document viewer essentially replaces Window's own facilities. The overall message is that whatever you need to do, you can do it entirely within HP's hardware and software that all works together beautifully. Some really like this. Others prefer to do things their own way (which, of course, you can do with each and every piece of HP hardware).
As far as HP's digital cameras go, they are mostly inexpensive models geared towards beginners. Their controls and menus tend to be simple and basic so that anyone can pick one up and start shooting right away. Most HP cameras tend to be fairly large and heavy. The emphasis is on simplicity and durability rather than style and elegance (though HP cameras are not without their own unique style elements).
Just like their computers and PDAs, HP separates its digital cameras into "home & home office" and "business" offerings. The majority of cameras apear in both categories, at times with small differences in the included software.