Why HP’s superior Slate will fail

HP’s Slate is a nice-looking product. And at least on paper, its hardware trashes the iPad. Numbers trap naive customers, but they don’t matter 2 months down the line. The Slate and Windows 7 will roll over, exhausting their momentum in a futile battle because neither company ‘get’ it: in the new wave of mobile computing, it’s all about the OS. Feel free to discuss HP’s Slate in our forums.

Personal computers don’t even need 1GHZ for emailing, surfing the web, and thanks to  hardware-decoded video, even the iPhone 3GS can play HD material. In late 2008, I tested this myself, underclocking my 2400 MHz MBP to 600 MHz for two weeks. During that time I did ALL my work including heavy doses of Adobe Illustrator. Sure the 600 MHz MBP was slower thank its 2400 MHz counterpart, but for 90% of general computing even that went unnoticed.

Ripping out the keyboard and adding a finger-friendly capacitive screen to a netbook/laptop isn’t enough to make a successful touch screen computing device. The iPhone OS is ground-up built for lots of touching, and while it has its own frustrating limitations, its smooth, touch-friendly computing experience more than makes up for it. HP’s Slate relies on a desktop OS which is tweaked for touch input, but it isn’t geared for it. Even HP’s press videos show a lot of problems in the OS: tiny buttons, interactive content thrown to screen corners, etc.. It’s like steering a car with chopsticks: given a really sensitive steering system, you can get just about anywhere, but a car, just like the iPhone is meant to be handled hands-on. Windows 7 and non-native browsers and techniques are even more foreign.

The Slate’s extra CPU and RAM overhead will go to feed a more hungry OS: Windows 7, as nice as it is, has a lot more going on than iPhone OS. Power hungry users may opt for Windows 7 and even enjoy whoring for wuffie by getting fragged in Quake 3. But by and large, the extra computing power will disappear in the column of support which keeps Windows 7’s roof up. Of course, no regular computing task needs more power than either platform delivers. And while we are on the subject, there are very few chips which perform megahertz-megahertz exactly the same as the competition. It’s entirely possible that an Atom processor could be 3x the speed of Intel’s top current desktop processors. Now, that is something isn’t it?

The issue of camera, however, is on the side of HP. The machine sports two cameras whereas the iPad must use an expensive Plug’N Play camera addon, or rely on an iPhone to take pictures. The Slate also directly accepts SD cards while the iPad requires a separate SD dongle. The iPad does take a few falls at the hands of Apple’s philosophy of simplicity.

But then, what will the Slate’s forte be? It will join myriad other look-alike PC touch screen computers, each vying for your dollar by footing better specs or cheaper prices. That means different resolution/aspect ratios, graphics cards, and processors. No right-minded company will design internet browsers, games, productivity suites, or apps to work flawlessly on each computer. In order to grab special attention from software developers, a PC slate computer will have to be ubiquitous in its market, meaning that it must first conquer everyone else before it even begins to take a stab at Apple’s market.

Go ahead, try to exit the app

iWorks has been retooled for the iPad and with the App Store and loads of dedicated developers at its back, the iPad, a static platform, will garner hoards of native software. Each app will be designed for the iPad, looking and acting like it should. The Slate on the other hand, needs tweezers and a magnifying glass in order to operate any Microsoft Office derivative. The same is true with web browsing and let’s not even get into gaming.

So why do HP and Microsoft think they have something? The answer is because neither company understand the importance of design. Microsoft understand ubiquity, but they don’t understand that their staid path to success is also their biggest hurdle on the road to success on emerging platforms. Their customers: HP, DELL, Toshiba, Sony, etc., will suffer because they rely on software which is both unfocused and non-native.

HP’s Slate is an excellent piece of hardware, but its potential is capped because its hardware, like a mannequin, relies on a dresser. In this case, Windows 7 just doesn’t put on a good show. And neither will Android or Chrome until either is made FOR a specific hardware platform. It ISN’T about the hardware or a fit-all OS, it’s about the tailored OS and software.

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