Flash Support Gives HP Slate Edge Over iPad

Hewlett-Packard suggests that its upcoming slate PC boasts one clear advantage over Apple’s iPad by supporting Adobe Flash

Hewlett-Packard’s upcoming tablet PC has an advantage over Apple’s iPad thanks to its ability to run Flash, an HP executive wrote in a 8 March posting on a corporate blog.

As the launch date for the iPad rapidly approaches, it becomes increasingly clear that the iPad’s deliberate shunning of Flash support may be the hamstring at which its competitors aim their knives.

Whether the lack of Flash support hobbles Apple sales, and boosts the fortunes of its competitors, will likely be undeterminable for several months. “With this slate product, you’ve getting a full Web browsing experience in the palm of your hand. No watered-down Internet, no sacrifices,” Phil McKinney, Hewlett-Packard’s vice president and chief technology officer for the Personal Systems Group, wrote in the 8 March posting on the company’s Voodoo Blog. “A big bonus for the slate product is that, being based off Windows 7, it offers full Adobe support.”

According to a 18 Feb. report in The Wall Street Journal, HP executives may adjust the price of their slate device, which was first unveiled by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer during a keynote presentation at January’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, in order to better compete against Apple’s iPad. During that presentation, Ballmer had suggested that the tablet’s capabilities would include e-reading, Web surfing, and playing media such as movies.

In addition to HP, a number of other manufacturers such as Fujitsu, Fusion Garage, Pegatron, and Archos all plan on releasing tablets to compete in what promises to be a burgeoning space. E-reader manufacturers such as Amazon.com are also introducing SDKs (software development kits) and features such as Web surfing, in a bid to bring those devices in alignment with tablet PCs.

Apple executives reportedly indicated to Credit Suisse analyst Bill Shope that they intended to be “nimble” with iPad pricing if customers decline to immediately flock to the device after its April 3 release. The iPad’s price is lower than that of many Apple products, including its traditional Mac line, but is nonetheless perceived as a potential issue by analysts such as the IDC’s Susan Kevorkian.

During a January meeting at Apple headquarters, CEO Steve Jobs allegedly suggested that Flash was buggy, and would therefore not be supported by the iPad. That led to an immediate response by Adobe, with Adrian Ludwig, a member of Adobe’s Platform Product Marketing team, writing in a 27 Jan. posting on the Adobe Flash Platform Blog: “It looks like Apple is continuing to impose restrictions on their devices that limit both content publishers and consumers…without Flash support, iPad users will not be able to access the full range of Web content, including over 70 percent of games and 75 percent of video on the Web.”

HP is evidently betting that its tablet’s support of Flash, and the sites that use it, will give it a competitive advantage as the device heads towards its release at an as-yet-unannounced date in 2010.

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