HP takes on Apple's iPad with Slate tablet

Hopes its HP Slate device can ride the wave of hype surrounding the Apple iPad

Hewlett-Packard Co. this week started leaking information about its upcoming tablet computer, apparently hoping to take advantage of the hype and buzz surrounding Apple Inc.'s release of the iPad on Saturday.

HP offered users an early peek at its Slate device early this year at the CES 2010 trade show. Since then, the company has released short blog updates about the HP Slate and posted videos about it on YouTube.

Less than a week after the iPad became available, HP yesterday leaked information about the pricing and specs of its tablet to tech blog Engadget.

The HP Slate tablet, which runs Windows 7, has a base price of $549, and a higher-end version costs $599.

The tablet, which is equipped with 1.6-GHz Intel Atom Z530 processor, has an 8.9-in. 1024-by-600 capacitive touch-screen display, according to Engadget. The high-end and low-end models both have a five-hour battery, and an SDHC slot, a USB port, a SIM card slot for an optional 3G modem and a dock connector.

Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group Inc., said HP's device looks to be a strong machine, but it will have stiff competition out of the box, since the iPad hype is likely to continue.

"On the face of it, HP's Slate might be a better machine for people who aren't already fully vested in the Apple ecosystem," said Olds. "HP's device runs Windows 7, so it can run software that people already know and have. It looks like it can multitask -- something the iPad can't do. And it has the ability to easily connect to other devices like printers and cameras -- another place where the iPad comes up short."

Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group, said the HP tablet is an attractive device, but it falls short when it comes to battery life. The HP Slate can reportedly run up to five hours on battery power, while the iPad can get 10 to 11 hours. Ceding such an advantage to a competitor wouldn't bode well for a device that is already far behind on the hype meter.

Neither Enderle nor Olds sees HP's device as an iPad killer.

"I don't think it's an iPad killer, just as I don't think the iPad is a netbook or Kindle killer," said Olds. "But the Slate, assuming it's a solid product, will be a strong competitor to the iPad. It probably won't ever have the buzz and hype associated with the iPad and the Apple mystique, but it could easily sell more units. There are going to be a lot of non-Apple-centric people who will look at the iPad closely but end up buying the Slate."

Meanwhile, Olds said that Apple appears to have "nailed it" on the iPad's execution and design, which will make it that much tougher for the HP Slate.

"The iPad doesn't do everything, but what it does, it does very well," noted Olds. "From what I hear, Slate is going to be released in early June. Assuming that it delivers that full computing experience, I think they'd be coming to market at a good time -- not too late at all. I'm also figuring that they will have lots of support from Microsoft and other ISVs who write to the Windows platform. This could mean a very large advertising push, which can do nothing but help."

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Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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