Without a software platform to aim the silicon guns, there can be no platform war. And if TechCrunch’s lead is more than just rumour, HP may be sunning their Slate out of Microsoft’s musty Windows 7 cocoon. HP may even drop Intel’s Atom for a less power-hungry platform, in which case, Windows 7 is right out. WebOS, Android, and Chrome stand primed as candidates, but as I mentioned before, tablet computing needs tight integration of software and hardware.
Mobile computing isn’t just nerd fodder: spec is nothing. Hardware husks need friendly, pixel-perfect user GUI’s; they need innovation; they need a tailor-made OS. If HP hook themselves into a wrong build of Android or WebOS, the Slate will drop to the wayside as just another Tablet PC. Even if they manage to sell a few, their Slate is destined to be just _a_ good Android.
Their hardware will never enjoy low-level integration of software and hardware like the iPad. Dropping Windows 7, however, is a good first move to make the Slate work. Alternatively, HP could ferret out keen software developers and coddle together a semblance of coherent computing by buying WebOS.
But they’d be left with a sad library of apps and possibly, a has-been operating system. Watching Apple’s competition is like watching a discordant army of peasants attack the walls of a well-fortified castle with sporks. I have every confidence that the iPad and iPhone OS will be outsold 3:1 or worse by its rustic rivals. But then again, Apple have never relied on market domination to make great products. Continuing in their simple, but elegant strategy of bottom-up software/hardware integration will secure their platform advantage.
This ain’t the PC wars all over again – no one is going to undersell the competition to the top. Apple’s years of keen UI study and real-world product development will keep the iPhone/iPad at the top.