HP Readies Own Slate For Fight With iPad


Hewlett-Packard’s upcoming tablet PC could use video conferencing, at least one camera module, and support for Adobe Flash and removable SD memory cards as potential differentiators from Apple’s bestselling iPad

Hewlett-Packard is ramping up its own tablet PC efforts in the wake of Apple’s iPad launch, releasing a new official blog posting and video that shows an upcoming slate product capable of video conferencing.

“Think about the last time you chatted with friends over Skype on your notebook,” Phil McKinney, vice president and chief technology officer for Hewlett-Packard’s Personal Systems Group, wrote in a 5 April posting on the company’s Voodoo Blog. “Or uploaded a picture from your mobile phone to Facebook or Flickr. How about the last time you viewed images or video from an SD card or a USB device. We know that you expect to be able to capture and share digital content on your mobile devices.”

The Slate, apparently, can deliver all those functions. A 30-second video accompanying the blog post shows a pair of hands activating a Skype app for two-way video conferencing, using one of possibly two built-in camera modules to take an image, browsing through music, plugging in a USB cord, and inserting a 16GB SD memory card into a slot on the side of the device.

In the blog posting, McKinney seems to be taking a shot at Apple’s iPad by suggesting that “media consumption is only half of the ideal mobile experience.” Apple has been touting its tablet as primarily a lightweight means to view movies, e-books, TV shows, Web pages and other digital content.

While the iPad has proven a strong seller in its first weekend of release, HP may be betting it has an advantage in certain key features of its own tablet offering, including camera modules and ability to run Adobe Flash. The current version of the iPad does not feature a camera module, nor does it support SB memory cards, which can be used to expand the device’s total memory.

“With this slate product, you’re getting a full Web browsing experience in the palm of your hand. No watered-down Internet, no sacrifices,” McKinney wrote in an 8 March posting on the Voodoo Blog. “A big bonus for the slate product is that, being based off Windows 7, it offers full Adobe support.”

During a January meeting at Apple headquarters, CEO Steve Jobs allegedly suggested that the iPad would not support Flash because it was “buddy.” In response, Adrian Ludwig, a member of Adobe’s Platform Product Marketing team, wrote 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.”

A first glimpse of HP’s product was offered by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer during a keynote presentation at January’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, with Ballmer suggesting at the time that the tablet’s capabilities would extend to e-reading, Web surfing and playing multimedia. Besides HP, manufacturers including Fujitsu, Fusion Garage, Pegatron and Archos plan on releasing tablets to compete in the space.

However, those companies face a robust competitor in Apple, which announced on April 5 that it had sold some 300,000 iPads in the United States by midnight on 3 April. In a statement, Apple CEO Steve Jobs suggested that the average iPad purchaser had downloaded three apps and “close to one book” within their first few hours of purchase, for a total of more than one million iPad apps and 250,000 e-books.

In his statement, Jobs termed the iPad a “game changer.” Whether HP can take advantage of that changed game-space, when it releases its own tablet at an as-yet-unannounced date later in 2010, remains to be seen.

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