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HP Preps Its Would-Be iPad Killer, The Slate

HP Preps Its Would-Be iPad Killer, The Slate

Remember the HP Slate, the upcoming Windows 7-powered tablet that we first saw during Microsoft’s CES keynote back in January? Well, we just got more details on HP’s would-be iPad killer, thanks to a new, official teaser video and Engadget‘s decidedly unofficial series of leaked specs.
The last time we saw the Slate was in the hands of Steve Ballmer during a rather tepid presentation in Las Vegas, with Ballmer showing off the Kindle reader and struggling a bit as he tried to tee up a video. But HP has clearly stepped up its game, starting with this snazzy 30-second teaser video that makes a point of showing off all the features on the Slate that are missing on the iPad, such as a built-in camera, a USB port (a real one, not an adapter), and an SD card slot.

Just a few hours after the video was posted, Engadget managed to snag what appears to be an HP marketing sheet — titled, none too subtly, “HP Slate vs. iPad” — that specifically stacks up the Slate to the iPad, point for point. Now, before we dive into the details here, let’s just point out that HP has yet to officially cough up detailed specs for the Slate, much less a price tag or a release date (other than “this year,” that is). Still, if what we’re looking at here is real, it’s a pretty clear indication that HP is positioning the Slate as an iPad killer.

Looking at the (purported) spec sheet, the Slate appears to have a series of enticing features that are missing on the iPad. There’s the camera, of course, and we’re not just talking one but two: a 3MP lens in back and a front-facing VGA camera for video conferencing. We’ve also got a single USB 2.0 port, an SD card reader, a “conventional” SIM tray for 3G networking, and HDMI-out video capabilities (not to mention 1080p playback) via the Slate’s dock connector. (Each of these key points are highlighted on the leaked marketing sheet as an “HP advantage,” by the way.)

Pretty interesting, and here’s a few more details to boot (again, not official): an 8.9-inch, 1024-by-600-pixel display (slightly smaller and lower-res than the iPad), a 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor under the hood, and 32 or 64GB of built-in flash storage (expandable via the SD card slot). The spec sheet doesn’t mention Flash support specifically, but HP has already made it pretty clear that yes, you will be able to view Flash videos on the Slate.

The leaked spec sheet describes the Slate as measuring 9.2 by 5.7 by 0.57 inches, making the Slate (potentially) a tad taller, narrower, and thicker than the iPad (9.56 by 7.47 by 0.5 inches), as well as a tiny bit lighter (1.49 pounds, vs. 1.5 pounds for the iPad).

The leaked marketing sheet also ticks off a few specs labeled as “HP threat” — in other words, areas in which the iPad would have a leg up over the Slate, at least for now. Among them: no support for 802.11n, the latest official Wi-Fi standard; just five hours of battery life, versus 10 hours for the iPad; and a slightly more expensive price tag for the 16GB model ($549, versus $499 for the 16GB iPad) — although, to be fair (and if the leaked specs are true), the $549 16GB Slate might come with a SIM tray, whereas the equivalent 3G-enabled iPad will set you back $629.

Of course, one of the biggest selling points for the Slate (and yes, this we know for certain) is Windows 7, a full-on, multitasking, desktop-caliber operating system. The iPad runs on a modified version of the iPhone OS, and among other things lacks third-party-app multitasking (although that may be changing soon). Then again, the iPad OS is specifically designed for touch and runs lightning-fast; Windows 7 is designed for a keyboard and mouse (HP is promising a “touch-optimized UI” to help with fingertip navigation). And it remains to be seen whether Slate’s 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor will be up to the task of making Windows 7 run smoothly on a 1.5-pound tablet.

Let’s just say one more time that the leaked marketing sheet obtained by Engadget isn’t official; and even if it is real, the listed specs are certainly subject to change; and again, we still don’t have an official price tag.

Still, if the Slate proves anything, it’s that the tablet wars won’t end with the iPad; indeed, they’re only beginning. If the iPad turns out to be a hit (and the jury’s still out), it’ll spur more competition in the tablet “space” (“Courier,” anyone?), and that’s a good thing.

— Ben Patterson is a technology writer for Yahoo! News.



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