HP sticks an Android tablet into a printer

In an odd gadget combo, Hewlett-Packard announced a printer with a detachable Android tablet computer in it. The device is part of the company’s strategy of integrating the internet into its core printing business.

The printer is called the HP Photosmart eStation All-in-One and will sell for $399; the Android tablet has a 7-inch screen. It will be released later this year. HP also said it has partnered with Barnes & Noble to give the printer-tablet access to digital books, and with Yahoo to give the gadget access to email, messenger and other services. And it is working with Delta Air Lines to make the printing of boarding passes easy from the printer-tablet.

Vyomesh Joshi, head of the printer division and one of the internal candidates named as HP’s next chief executive, said that HP plans to sell 5 million web-connected printers this year and 20 million in 2011. Earlier this year, HP began putting email addresses on printers so that users could email documents for printing. At an event today, Joshi declined comment on HP’s search for a new CEO. His business accounts for about a fifth of HP’s $115 billion in revenue.

The printer’s development evidently predates the acquisition of Palm. Otherwise, you would expect the printers to use the Palm WebOS mobile operating system. HP has said it plans to launch a Windows-based slate computer (its name for a tablet) this fall, as well as a WebOS tablet early next year. Customers could therefore be quite confused over HP’s real tablet strategy. HP evidently believes that multiple operating systems will win in the future, and Joshi said HP will be device and operating system agnostic.

The Android tablet uses a Freescale i.MX51 processor and will run for four to six hours on a charge . The tablet raises a question. If you take the tablet out of the printer, will the printer still work? While attached to the printer, the tablet can be a digital photo frame. It uses Android version 2.1. The device is just one of many printers HP announced for its fall line-up.