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HP introduced its DreamScreen line of flat Wi-Fi-enabled devices this morning.
They're slick and attractively priced -- at $249 for the 10-inch screen and $299 for the 13-inch model.
On the downside, they don't do as much as they should. The DreamScreen is essentially a glorified digital photo frame with multimedia goodies and very limited online connectivity. Users can stream photos, music, and video located elsewhere in their home networks or stored in the 2 gigabytes of internal capacity. They can also access Facebook, Pandora, and HP's own Snapfish. That's pretty much it, though.
What good is a portable Wi-Fi screen if it can't access Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) YouTube and other video-sharing sites? It's easy to see why HP would back Snapfish as a photo-sharing platform, but it leaves out the obvious Shutterfly (Nasdaq: SFLY ) and Yahoo!'s (Nasdaq: YHOO ) Flickr.
The DreamScreen also accesses HP SmartRadio, a new hub that offers free access to 10,000 Internet radio stations. Along with Pandora connectivity, this would be a threat to Sirius XM Radio (Nasdaq: SIRI ) if it weren't already retreating from the home market. Satellite radio's growth has come primarily from factory-installed car models lately.
In short, HP's new device does a few things well, but it doesn't replace the netbook the way that Apple's inevitable device will. The DreamScreen isn't an email retriever or a gateway to even primitive computing tasks.
It also doesn't offer a touchscreen or a keyboard, so even access to Facebook is unlikely to be as interactive an experience as some may expect.
HP is positioning this as a "fourth screen" for consumers, with computer monitors, televisions, and smartphones being the first three. It's a noble concept, but sadly incomplete. We need more, HP. We will be willing to pay more, too.
Fourth screen? I plead the fifth.