Microsoft’s lame attempt to preempt Apple with the HP Slate

Fri, Jan 8, 2010

Analysis, News

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.

Look familiar?


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4 Comments For This Post

  1. AlfieJr Says:

    “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.”

    that’s just plain wrong. size matters. a larger touch screen would be much easier to use, pure and simple. that is certainly “advantageous.” better for watching media, like on an airplane. much better for avoiding tapping the wrong link on a jam-packed webpage. etc.

    now size may not be enough for a big success. and it certainly would not be a game changer. but it is the exact reason i did NOT buy a touch almost a year ago and decided to wait for a larger tablet. the off-hand dismissal of the advantage of size like this post’s is just too glib. that goes for Jobs’ comment too.

    and the real fatal flaw of the all the Windows tablets is that NO desktop OS – Windows, Mac, or Linux – can work well on a touchscreen. their desktops and applications are designed to work with mouse and keyboard obviously, and just mapping those controls to some kind of equivalent touch gestures is not good enough. it’s difficult and unnatural to use. so nobody buys these things.

    Apple understands this, and reinvented the OS X UI for the iPhone touchscreen. no doubt the tablet will do the same. Android tablets should have the same advantage – but without any standardization all their UI’s will be somewhat different from each other, which is nuisance for consumers. continuity helps.

  2. S. King Says:

    “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.”

    I think the point being made is that if Apple does decide to release a product that fits into the “tablet” category, it should be a completely different “experience” than any tablet device attempted to date. Otherwise it would just be another tablet computer and we already know the market isn’t impressed with that (and Steve Jobs knows that). The article goes on to suggest they would be equally unimpressed with an iPod Touch with a larger screen as a revolutionary new tablet. AlfieJR says that the larger screen size would make a difference, but we already have PC tablets with large screens so the screen size isn’t really it. It all comes back to the “experience”. Windows and PC hardware get in the way of a user’s experience. They block the euphoria of technology by being an annoying nuisance. Apple understands this, and thinks different. They don’t always get it right, but they get it right more often than not and they know when to rethink an approach entirely rather than slap more lipstick on a circa 1978 operating system.

  3. iphonerulez Says:

    I don’t quite understand what people are waffling about? Surely it can’t be the form factor that it doesn’t fit in your pocket. People have been carrying stuff around for years that didn’t fit in their pockets. I see people carrying books and magazines all the time. Carry one tablet and you can pack dozens of books with you with less weight in a nice slim package. I’m wondering if it’s the supposed price that people are complaining about. Yeah, I know the netbook cheapsters don’t want to spend more than $350 for any computing device, but as when most things new first come out, they’re a bit expensive. The people with the money usually get first crack. They’re saying that nobody really needs a tablet. There are so many people buying things they really don’t need. People houses are loaded with stuff like that. People will be buying the Apple tablet because they want it, not out of need. At least people that like Apple products. It’ll be just another fun Apple product to own that will find it’s usage as time goes on.

    I don’t know what the Windows fanboys will be buying. They’ll have to make do with that HP vaporware tablet a few months down the line. I’m sure that won’t satisfy them because it doesn’t have a physical keyboard which is always the netbook user’s complaint. A tablet is only half a computer without a keyboard? If you’ve got a device that’s mainly a playback device, what the hell do you need an attached physical keyboard for. It’s just a waste of space and added weight. Maybe Windows users are waiting for a tablet with a slide-out keyboard as they have on their Windows smartphones.

    The Apple tablet will be all about delivering massive media content to the people that can afford it. Damn the price and full speed ahead. I can hardly wait to get one.

  4. John Dingler Says:

    Ballmer’s demo set back tablets running Win 7 by about three years.

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