Business Hardware

HP Promises Everything the iPad Isn't with Slate

HP released a new video showing off its upcoming "iPad killer"--the Slate tablet PC. The video is reminiscent of Verizon's "Droid Does" campaign highlighting all of the capabilities of the Android-based Droid that the Apple iPhone can't deliver. In a mere 30 seconds HP manages to demonstrate that its tablet is--in a nutshell--everything Apple's iPad isn't.

The Apple iPad launched this past Saturday and has been a tremendous success. Even those who aren't captivated by the iPad have been forced to admit a healthy respect for what its capable of. For all the iPad does well, though, it can't seem to escape the fact that it won't completely replace your desktop or notebook PC.

The HP Slate, on the other hand, may be another story. All of the features and functions lacking in the Apple iPad as a business tool or notebook replacement, exist on the HP Slate. Apple has succeeded in bringing the tablet PC concept to the mainstream consciousness, but HP has the benefit of riding the tablet wave, while also learning from Apple's mistakes and introducing a tablet that fills the perceived holes in the iPad.

Camera / video. The camera, and the ability to record video may be more consumer gadget than business tool, but video conferencing is becoming mainstream and mobile business professionals rely on it. The HP Slate video demonstrates a two-way video call using Skype--indicating that the Slate will have both front and rear-facing cameras.

USB ports. Apple is known for creating exemplary user experiences, but those user experiences come with locked-down, proprietary hardware. The HP Slate has USB ports--enabling attachment of external storage, and other USB-enabled devices just like on a standard desktop or notebook PC.

SD memory expansion. USB devices can be used to expand storage capacity on the tablet, but SD memory cards are a much less obtrusive way to do so. With the Apple iPad, whatever storage capacity you purchase is the storage capacity you are stuck with--there is no option to expand it if necessary. The Slate has an SD memory card slot.

Software. The HP Slate is a Windows 7-based device. You can install the software you are used to rather than just the apps approved by Apple. Granted, there are 150,000 apps in the Apple App Store, and already thousands of iPad-specific apps, but there will inevitably be software you use on a daily basis that just won't work on an iPad. The video shows the HP Slate with iTunes, Skype, and the Mozilla Firefox Web browser installed.

Adobe Flash. Arguably one of the most-discussed gaps in iPad functionality is the lack of support for Adobe Flash. I am of the opinion that the Web should be standards-based and not rely on a proprietary technology like Flash, but its hard to argue with the fact that Flash is fairly ubiquitous on the Web today.

As much as the community at large has debated the value of the iPad as a business tool--Apple failed to hold up its end. Apple was so focused on building a consumer gadget that it left off critical elements that could have let the iPad not just be used as a business tool--but dominate as a business tool.

The iPad is a success, and it has significantly more business functionality than iPad naysayers would have you believe, but Apple left the door open for HP and others to ride on iPad's coattails and deliver a true business-capable tablet device. Apple will end up either accepting its role as a niche consumer gadget--a role it is familiar and comfortable with--or be forced to play catch up with devices like the Slate as it develops the iPad 2.0.

The bottom line is that the HP Slate is a significant device. It may not "beat" the iPad in total sales, and it may not cause the sort of hyperbole and excitement that Apple brought with the iPad, but even if it ends up as only the second-best tablet on the market, it will be a win for HP and a significant step for Windows 7-based tablets.

Tony Bradley is co-author of Unified Communications for Dummies . He tweets as @Tony_BradleyPCW . You can follow him on his Facebook page , or contact him by email at tony_bradley@pcworld.com .

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