Today may end up being a bloody day for prospective iPad alternatives. Earlier today, we learned that Microsoft's Courier tablet was a real product under consideration by Microsoft, but that the company has since ended the project. Now comes a report from TechCrunch claiming that HP no longer plans to offer its upcoming Windows 7-based "Slate" tablet.
HP's Slate tablet made its debut--a brief one at that--during Steve Ballmer's keynote at this year's Consumer Electronics Show. The Slate was shown running a standard installation of Windows 7, though presumably HP would have built a touch-friendly layer similar to what comes with its TouchSmart line of PCs.
The change in direction may be more than OS-deep; the TechCrunch report also states that "HP may also be abandoning Intel-based hardware for it’s slate lineup simply because it’s too power hungry. That would also rule out Windows 7 as an operating system." (The iPad, for example, uses a custom Apple-designed chip instead of using Intel processors meant for use in more typical PCs and netbooks).
Although it's all speculation at this point--HP has yet to confirm anything, but we've dropped HP a line and will update this story if we hear anything--the timing of this news coincides with HP's announcement that it has bought Palm. This is leading some to speculate whether HP is instead working on a tablet based on WebOS, the operating system developed for Palm's Pre and Pixi smartphones. Yesterday, prominent blogger John Gruber said that "[HP] should announce that the Windows 7 “slate” they pre-announced a few months ago has been canned, to be replaced by a version running WebOS."
Shortly before the iPad was announced, I took a look at the tablets that we had seen up to that point, and concluded that mouse-driven interfaces--like those used for Windows 7 and Mac OS X--aren't well suited for touch. Meanwhile, WebOS is designed from the ground up with touch in mind. If this story is true, it looks like HP's engineers feel the same way: TechCrunch's source says that "HP is not satisfied with Windows 7 as a tablet operating system."
What is your take on this news? Do you think that HP should stick with Windows 7 for its Slate? Or would you jump at the chance to get a WebOS-based tablet? Sound off in the comments.
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