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Palm: Savior of the HP Slate?

The rumors of the premature demise of the HP Slate have left me with mixed emotions.

I had been looking forward to seeing if HP could develop its Touchsmart software to bring a viable Windows based competitor to the tablet market.  Recently however my time with the Apple iPad have left me grave doubts that Touchsmart advances could bring the HP Slate anywhere close to its most prominent competitor.  Even major enhancements to HP’s software would most likely lead to a HTC Sense over Windows Mobile 6.5 situation where a pretty, and functional, front end covers a less touch friendly but useful operating system.

HP’s acquisition of Palm obviously point towards development of both phone and tablet platforms using Palm’s WebOS software so, personally, I would be surprised to hear of HP engaging in significant further tablet development using Windows 7.  Speaking as a Windows 7 user since January 2009 and someone who attended its CES launch event, I simply do not see it as a strong competitor to the iPad for mainstream users.  This is different to OSX vs Windows.  Tablets need a completely finger friendly user environment, for all operations.

Even though Windows 7 offers so much more power than WebOS, Palm’s offering offers more relevance for mainstream tablets at this time.  Similarly Windows Phone 7 in my view looks likely to be a better fit for tablets as well.  There is really no need to squeeze all of Windows 7 into a tablet for Main Street.  The result is a large amount of unusable applications for most use-cases, poor battery life and long startup times.

Just in case there’s any confusion, the current market benchmark is thousands of high quality touch only apps, ten hours of real life battery duration and instant-on startup.  These are not nice-to-haves, these are the qualities of the best selling device in this sector.  Aspiring competitors who are considering entering this market must believe that they can improve upon these qualities, or they should not waste shareholder value in developing a competing product.

If the rumors of HP laying its Windows 7 based Slate to rest in favor of a WebOS based ‘Hurricane’ come to fruition, that’s probably a good thing.  It’s also not necessarily a bad thing for Microsoft.  Windows 7 is a great desktop, laptop and netbook operating system; probably the best I’ve used, all things considered.  Microsoft should look to preserve that reputation and produce the right products for the right platforms.  That could mean giving OEMs the right to use Windows Phone 7 in tablet development to avoid WebOS taking hold alongside Android as the viable competitors to the iPad.

Neil Berman

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May 14, 2010 - Posted by | Analysis, Computing, Hardware | , , , , ,

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