HP's just revealed an all-in-one PC that's reminiscent of the current iMac, but sports a touchscreen and novel tilting stand. The thing is, it's pretty similar to several patents Apple has protecting the design of future iMacs.
The new HP machines are the TouchSmart 610, aimed at the consumer market, and the TouchSmart 9300 Elite which is aimed at the business scene. Both are all-in-one PCs in the style of Apple's iconic iMac, with a slim body containing all the PC hardware, ports and drives (leveraged from notebook designs so the components are slimmer), mounted on a neat stand so they take up far less desk space than competing designs. But the new machines have 23-inch touchscreen displays--something we've seen on several earlier desktop PC's, although these machines suffered from the awkward user positions needed to interact with the screen: They're great for interactive in-store displays, but holding your arms out ahead of you isn't exactly comfortable.
Enter HP's new stand, which allows the screens of the new PCs to slide down from an upright position to almost flat. HP's pushing this feature like crazy today, and it's referenced  in several  tech blogs: VentureBeat notes  the reclined touchscreen results in a system that reminds them of the famous control panels on the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise from Star Trek. The business PC is intended to find use in the workplace, perhaps as a tool for collaborative team work on the same document, and in places like retail counters--Barnes and Noble division Tikatok is reported as being a customer for interactive digital book-building of kids texts.
The thing is, Apple has been looking at  a tilting touchscreen all-in-one PC for some time, and has patented several aspects  of the technology--including a novel tilting stand that swivels the machine's body downward to enable a more intuitive use of the screen when used in a desktop environment. Apple has imagined many different implementations of the tech, including a hybrid OS that operates as classic OS X when the screen is vertical, and switches to an iOS-style finger-friendly model when the screen is flat.
Has HP wandered into a space that Apple's aggressively patented ahead of what some predict to be a touchscreen make-over for 2011's iMac range? We'll have to see if any other Apple patents surface or if Apple litigates. What this new HP design will do, also, is reignite this whole debate  about iMacs and touchscreens--a debate that we last heard of in October 2010 when a spokesman  for Sintek Photronics denied rumors it was working on an iMac Touch prototype. But this rumor has persisted for years, and Apple certainly could do with a headline-stealing makeover to one of its products this year since most of its devices will likely get low-key upgrades, and there's not likely to be a limelight-stealing release like the iPad (even the iPad 2 announcement is now rumored  to be a low-key affair).
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