Is HP's Slate Dead?

By  |  Friday, April 30, 2010 at 12:03 am

This is one for the “I Find This Rumor Extremely Hard to Believe” file: Michael Arrington of TechCrunch is reporting that a source has told him that HP has decided to cancel its “slate PC.” You know–the one that was the centerpiece of Steve Ballmer’s CES keynote and which HP was trumpeting as recently as three weeks ago.

It’s not implausible because deciding not to pursue the project is itself inexplicable. Arrington says that HP is killing the slate because it’s unhappy with Windows 7 as a tablet operating system. But it was obvious from the get-go that Win 7 as it stands really doesn’t make much sense for a slate–all the extra touch capability that Microsoft baked in still leaves Windows as a keyboard-and-mouse-centric OS with, um, a touch of touch. And there’s been no evidence to date that Microsoft is interested in doing the necessary work to make Windows a good touch-centric product. There’s no way that a Microsoft slate could have compete with Apple’s iPad unless someone put an immense amount of work into the user interface.

Back at CES, Steve Ballmer didn’t seem that interested in Windows on slate devices. The Windows product manager I talked to at the show didn’t seem that interested. I haven’t noticed a clamor among consumers for Windows slates. Really, most of the enthusiasm so far seems to have come from HP, whose seems to have found reasonable success with its TouchSmart machines. Could it have been so giddy over the idea that it had to build one before it figured out that the idea didn’t make a lot of sense?

And with other news today including the official termination of Microsoft’s “Courier” project, just where does would the cancellation of the HP slate leave Windows when it comes to untraditional PCs?

 
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9 Comments For This Post

  1. David Hamilton Says:

    If this rumour is true, then surely the ‘elephant in the room’ that you don’t mention is HP’s purchase of Palm: Adapting a touch-driven OS like WebOS to a tablet sized device seems a much more natural idea than trying to rework Windows for touch.

    Also, from HPs point-of-view, it is pushing at an open door: Palm are clearly keen to attack this market; Microsoft, as your comments highlight, not so.

    The lack of any real commercial effort from Microsoft to adapt Windows to touch-devices is baffling, in my opinion, but maybe they’ll adapt the very impressive-looking Windows 7 Mobile OS instead?

  2. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    This doesn’t surprise me at all.

    A few weeks ago there was no iPad and HP did not own Palm. The world of mobile tablets has changed a lot since.

    When you use an iPad, it’s just incredibly fast. It makes a Core 2 Duo system seem slow because it’s so much less responsive. An Atom with half the battery life and 2 times the size and weight is just not going to compete. I think people at HP got iPads and they had their perceptions changed like we all have when we try one.

    It’s clear the PC is toast. HP is the biggest PC vendor and Apple could buy them with cash. The growth and profits are all in mobiles. The cheapest iPad sells for more than the average PC.

    It’s possible we’ll look back on HP/Palm as Palm taking over HP like NeXT took over Apple in 1996.

  3. IcyFog Says:

    What David said.
    HP can now use WebOS for tablets.

  4. David Hamilton Says:

    I half agree with Hamranhansenhansen. I agree that tablets with touch/mobile OSs will be a huge part of the computing economy in the future.

    However, I draw a distinction between these devices and computers. These new devices are consumer appliances (that perform many tasks previously done only on PCs), not computers. I.e. they provide access to most of the capabilities of a PC, but without the complexity of a PC. That’s why controls on what can be installed on them are important – it frees users from the threats of malware. Once you allow users the freedom to fully control a such a device (as in jailbreaking), it ceases to be a consumer appliance and effectively becomes a computer again – the skill level needed to run it rises rapidly.

    Those who need all of the power and features (and annoyances) of a full computer will still be using them for many years yet, as will those who want to jailbreak their mobile devices. However they will be a minority of the population.

  5. pond Says:

    This plus cancelling Courier makes me wonder if Microsoft isn’t just giving up the ghost on slate-Win7 devices, and plumping it all down on WinPhone devices, developed under the Zune team, instead.

    That sort of decision makes sense for Microsoft and their partners, too. Convertible laptops can still be a sell for Win7, but going forward, WinPhone is a much better basis for tablets (which are, after all, going to have lots of mobile-phone tie-ins). WinPhone is also a way for Microsoft to shaft former BFF Intel — though here it’s just good sense: ARM is now powerful enough to run these devices, and makes for cheaper, lighter slates as well (particularly if you can design them with smaller batteries).

    Why should HP go forward with a Win7 Slate when WinPhone7 is coming in half a year, and promises a better platform?

    (And, should Win7 slates appearing at Computex this summer prove popular, HP could always just rebadge some Taiwanese slates with Compaq or HP brands, and turn on a dime.)

  6. Hp Slate 64gb Says:

    Hp Slate will probably be doing a last minute change of the OS. It is rumor that HP will be dropping Microsoft 7 OS from their Slate device. WebOS (most likely) will be their operating system of choice. Last heard is that HP was NOT happy with the performance of Microsoft 7 as a touch screen device. With HP purchasing Palm recently and with it came WebOS, it seems only likely that HP will be using WebOS as their OS for the Slate.
    HP may also be dropping the Intel processor for something “LESS POWER HUNGARY”. If they go to the new OS they won’t need the Intel processor and thus will gain a few more hours of battery life. Something that they were hammered on in hands on testing.

  7. Hp Slate 32gb Says:

    Back in January, HP VP Phil McKinney says the Slate running Windows 7 is a “real product. It’s not a prototype or concept. We’re committed to delivering it in 2010.” And this relatively long testimonial from Adobe in March says the Windows 7 HP Slate “will be available in the market later this year.”
    Of course, HP can change its mind. And the acquisition of Palm and the WebOS may give HP pause. But one argument being made is that HP may bring out tablets based on Windows 7 and Palm’s WebOS. HP is not averse to bringing out several different models in one product segment, as this San Jose Mercury News article points out. Ezra Gottheil, an analyst at Technology Business Research, said he believes that HP will bring out both a Windows 7 Slate and a product based on Palm’s WebOS. “Vendors will experiment to see which ones are a hit,” he said, in a phone interview.
    “I don’t think the Slate has been canceled. This is a delay, if anything,” said Ben Bajarin with Creative Strategies. “The question is, will they bring out different products at different price points.” HP may opt for a Windows 7 Slate for some segments, while a hypothetical WebOS-based tablet will address others, Bajarin said.
    Source from http://www.news.cnet.com

  8. Dan Says:

    It’s hard to believe this product is dead. While Apple did a good job on the iPhone, the iPad is weak and ill thought out. Frankly, the iPad has little to offer. It has no ports for extensions, you cannot change the battery, it uses the iPhone OS, there are few “useful” apps, yes it does crash like a drunk buddy at a frat party, it cannot utilize the entire Web due to a lack of Flash and Win Media playing capability, the apps that most people pump out are to maintain the system and OS (much like the OSX software that is available, etc…
    Windows 7 on the other hand is a great platform. There are plenty of professional looking and useful software packages, it is very stable, it has a clean look, you can look at everything on the web, and it was designed for the masses.

    Say what you want about Microsoft, but the truth is that they are a great company that produces great products. People in the US for some reason hate winners and want the little guy to emerge…that is until that little guy gets too big and then they turn on them . It is already happening with Apple and I expect it to get worse as people wake up from their doped up love state with them.
    FYI – typed on an iMac because I cannot pry my Win 7 machine from my wife or kids hands.

  9. David Hamilton Says:

    @Dan:

    Nicely done troll (for someone that clearly hasn’t used a Mac). Rather than refuting it point-by-point, let’s just wait a year and see where the market is at, shall we?

    A friend recently said that he was buying MS shares, as the dividends are good at the moment on the back of Windows 7 sales. I tried very hard to dissuade him:

    All of the market growth is currently on mobile and tablets, traditional PC sales are static by comparison (and have low profits) and may well start to shrink. MS has no coherent strategy for this new market: Windows 7 Mobile looks good, but in many ways is only catching up to the market a year (or more!) ago, the Kin devices provide platform fragmentation and I’ve seen nothing on how they expect to scale W7M up to the tablet market (not to mention kick-starting the app market).

    Once the Win7 sales have gone through, Microsoft’s cupboard looks pretty bare, and if investors come round to that way of thinking the shares will tank. Wouldn’t be good to be holding them if that happens.

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