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HP says its new ultra-thin laptop will out-innovate Apple

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Big launch scheduled for Tuesday during a luxury conference

HP EliteBook Folio

Having made a habit of emulating (if not outright imitating) Apple's MacBook and MacBook Air lines in recent years, HP believes its latest laptops are going to propel it to a position of design leadership. Speaking to The Wall Street Journal ahead of unveiling a new premium laptop on Tuesday, HP PC chief Ron Coughlin said that "for years, Apple has been seen as the innovator and the driver of innovation," but now "HP is really taking over that mantle."

It's a bold claim to make, though HP may feel encouraged by the reception its business-focused Elitebook Folio received during the Consumer Electronics Show this January. That laptop (pictured above) measures less than half an inch in thickness, and HP is expected to go even thinner with this week's debut. Both are therefore thinner than Apple's MacBook, which already feels almost as thin and light as a tablet. Whether shaving a few more millimeters off makes a difference, we'll have to wait and see.

HP wants its laptops to be in the same premium conversation as Apple's MacBook

HP's combative talk is an encouraging sign for competition in classic laptop design. At a time when everyone from Lenovo through Microsoft and even Apple and Google is developing hybrid and convertible designs, Dell has asserted itself as the leader among conventional Windows laptops with its standard-setting XPS 13 line. Many people prefer the simplicity of a laptop that simply works as a laptop — which is why Apple introduced the refreshed and simplified MacBook last year — and HP is preparing to make a renewed effort to appeal to them with its new hardware.

Set to launch during the International Luxury Conference in Versailles tomorrow, HP's new laptop doesn't seem likely to be a mass-market machine. As NPD analyst Stephen Baker puts it to the WSJ, "the challenge for doing really, really thin and light products is it’s a very, very thin and light segment to go after." Still, for HP it might well be worth it just to stake its claim as an innovation and design leader.