You know those ugly gray privacy protectors that only weird people put on their computers?
Well, HP thinks it has found a way to offer similar protection without the huge nerd factor that comes with using such a screen today.
By teaming up with 3M (which also makes the ugly things), HP plans to build similar privacy protection directly into a new line of mainstream business laptops that debuts next year.
With all the hacking out there, you would think that the risk of people stealing information from looking at a screen is low, but HP insists it is a big problem and even has a fear-inducing name for it: “Visual hacking.”
The issue is of increasing importance as millennials do more of their work in communal places such as coffee shops, planes and buses, says Mike Nash, a former head of Microsoft’s security efforts and now a VP in HP’s computer business. Go to any cafe in Silicon Valley, he says, and you can see business plans, partnership agreements and other sensitive data.
“You don’t have to have a photographic memory to [remember] that A is partnering with B,” Nash said.
The new laptop privacy protection, which restricts viewing to the person looking at the screen head-on, will be able to be turned on and off. That means that the same worker who wants to avoid unwanted eyes at the cafe can still show a movie on Netflix to her three roommates when she gets home.
HP, which is in the process of spinning out its computer business as a separate company, will be under pressure to show it can produce enough innovation to stand out from rivals and thrive in a very price-sensitive business.
HP isn’t saying how much the technology adds to the cost of a computer, but the company said it is looking to hit the mainstream part of the market, so it’s clearly nothing too pricey and exotic.
“We don’t see this as a niche,” said Alex Cho, VP and general manager of HP’s commercial PC division.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.