Why HP's Slate Isn't Anything Like the iPad

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The market difference

HP is selling the Slate into one market: business.

The iPad, on the other hand, is being sold into dozens of different markets. The iPad will be used by 2-year-olds and senior citizens, school teachers and churches, gamers and TV watchers. And the Slate won't.

The application model difference

As a Windows 7 PC, the HP Slate uses the Windows application model. You'll find the application on the vendor's Web site, most likely, and click to download. You'll enter in a long CD-key-type string of characters and will have to remember to come back for updates.

During the install process, the application will make changes to the Windows registry and replace system files that may or may not be set back right when you uninstall.

The iPad application model is the App Store, followed by a very clean install and uninstall system. When you visit the App Store, you're prompted to download updates to all apps that have been issued an improved version. And they're all installed at once, in a few seconds and without rebooting.

To uninstall, you don't go to the Control Panel and start hunting for the app. You simply press and hold the icon, then click the X.

The vision difference

Some people think consumer electronics devices are just boxes full of electronics. I think it matters how they come about because it tends to reflect in the quality of the product. Design matters.

The iPad is the product of vision. Some person or group of people at Apple deeply imagined how people might best use a tablet device, as well as why, where, when and how often they might use such a device. They envisioned it, then built it.

I don't know anything about how the HP Slate came about, but it doesn't feel like the child of vision. It doesn't even work anything like it did in the preview videos that were circulating just a few months ago. It feels like a me-too, check-the-tablet-box kind of product, where some suit ordered the engineers to come up with an answer to the iPad to fill a perceived hole in the company's soup-to-nuts lineup of computing devices.

I'm not dismissing the HP Slate. I'm merely pointing out what it is: The HP Slate is a PC. I like PCs and use one every day. There's nothing wrong with a touch-based tablet PC. But there's also nothing new about it.

More importantly, I'm also pointing out what the HP Slate isn't: The HP Slate is not a post-PC, MPG, third-generation, super-usable, multimarket, App Store-model, visionary device.

So, everybody, please stop comparing it with the iPad.

Mike Elgan writes about technology and tech culture. Contact and learn more about Mike at Elgan.com, or subscribe to his free e-mail newsletter, Mike's List.

This story, "Why HP's Slate Isn't Anything Like the iPad" was originally published by Computerworld.

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