When Apple released the iPod and the iPhone, it not only succeeded in markets where others had failed, but managed to essentially set the bar so high that competing companies are still struggling to play catch-up years later. It should therefore come as no surprise that everyone is trying to hop on the tablet bandwagon in an attempt to thwart what may very well be history repeating itself when Apple unveils a new tablet/slate device come January 26th.
If you need any convincing that an un-announced product from Apple can influence an entire industry, look no further than CES 2010 where a slew of companies are showcasing their take on a tablet, with the more notable entrant being Microsoft’s partnership with HP.
On Wednesday night, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer delivered the first keynote of CES 2010 where, among other things, he introduced an HP tablet running Windows 7. And oh yeah, they’re calling it the Slate, which may or may not be a little dig at Apple who, if you recall, owns the trademark for iSlate. Details regarding the HP Slate are still scarce, but from what we’ve gleaned so far it’ll be a multitouch device with “all day battery life”, along with an instant-on mode. While on stage, Ballmer demoed the device running Amazon’s Kindle app for Windows. Yawn.
The problem with the HP slate, along with all the other tablet devices, is that no one really can explain what their appeal is. It brings to mind a reported quip Steve Jobs made regarding tablets a few years ago – “What are they were good for besides surfing the Web in the bathroom?”
The fact is that all these tablet entries seem like glorified iPod Touch devices, and that’s just lazy and unimaginative development. And if that’s all Apple has to offer with its device, we’ll be calling them out for that as well.
PC World also came away from Ballmer’s keynote feeling unimpressed:
The HP Slate was underwhelming, to say the least. Hailed by Ballmer as “something that’s almost as portable as a phone and that’s as powerful as a PC running Windows 7”, the demonstration showed a flat panel computing device that seemed more equivalent to a color Kindle than to a Windows 7 wonder-tablet.
The tricky thing about tablets is that they basically exist in no-man’s land. Too big to be portable, and too small to be a full powered machine. That being the case, tablets take the worst of both worlds. That’s why we’ve been adamant in assuming that Apple just has to have a trick up its sleeve. As opposed to a lot of other companies (we’re looking at you Dell, HP, and Lenovo), Apple doesn’t release products merely to piggyback on whatever idea or product happens to be hot and popular. On the contrary, it’s products are well thought out and tend to serve a function that didn’t previously exist.
There’s nothing technologically prohibitive about Apple releasing a 7 or 10-inch iPod Touch, but there’s nothing advantageous or intriguing about such a product. So why the hell are other companies trying to preempt Apple by doing just that? All we can say is that when/if Steve Jobs announces an Apple tablet on January 26th, you can bet your ass off that the demo will be a helluva lot cooler than a Kindle app running on a device with no concrete ship date.
Below check out a “teaser” video for the HP Slate.