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What HP Needs for Slate to Take on iPad, and Win

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 17 comments

C'mon HP. You can do it!

Earlier today Engadget unearthed an internal presentation from HP that shows what advantages its Slate has over Apple's iPad, and vice versa. The presentation is there to help HP employees understand what needs to be done and what they can write home about.

But this one slide is only a small part of a much larger big picture.

While the slide does reveal advantages that the Slate does have over the iPad in terms of hardware, it doesn't address several fundamental issues:

HP does not have a well built, well populated and well integrated applications repository and store.
HP does not have a multi-studio backed music and movies store.
HP does not have a widely populated books and magazines store.

Time and time again, Apple has demonstrated that having the best specs, does not necessarily equate to having top notch mainstream acceptance and usability. This is where HP can start. Rather than having tunnel-vision focus on specifications alone, HP needs to hone in on user experience, and that begins squarely with the interface that will ultimately ship with the Slate.

HP is partly at the mercy of Microsoft. A version of Windows 7 will ship with the Slate, but what HP needs to do is create a well refined and customized touch-tuned interface that's intuitive to use. A slate/tablet device by today's standards, has to be usable by human fingers in a natural and easy way. If a company thinks it can crame in a desktop OS designed to be used with a keyboard and mouse into tablet, it is dead wrong. Thankfully however, HP is creating a custom TouchSmart interface that will ship with the Slate.

Key things HP needs to focus on are:

- Intuitive finger-based navigation.
- Unreliance on mouse, keyboard, stylus, although having options for these are good.
- Ensure that all aspects of the interface are cohesive, consistent and refined.
- Figure out a way to make applications take on the same consistency

End user experience are the final measuring stick on whether or not a device will be successful. But HP needs to work providing such an experience first. If HP can work deeply with Microsoft to refine the Slate's interface, things could look bright indeed.

Beyond Interfaces and Hardware

Competition beyond the interface however, is an even greater challenge for HP. Don't be fooled into thinking that the Slate and the iPad are on equal ground. What the Slate has to contend with is not simply another tablet, but an entire platform. Apple has immense strength here thanks to the entire "i-ecosystem." This is to say, the iTunes store, the App store, and now the iBooks store. One only needs to look at what the Apple has done to Amazon's once dominant Kindle ebook business to see that the Slate is in a battle not unlike David and Goliath. While its computer sales male pale in comparison, Apple's relentless grip on other business markets is massive. To underestimate these other areas, is a dangerous move.

HP needs to work closely with software developers and publishers. Since the Slate runs Windows 7, HP can use this to its advantage from a developer standpoint. It can work to convince the ocean of Windows developers to create custom version of existing apps and employ a good touch interface. HP also needs to see things through. Letting developers do whatever they want in terms of design and interface, is a bad idea. HP needs to keep developers along agreed-upon high quality standards. Only through this way, will the total user experience of the Slate be meaningful.

Outside from this, HP needs to also work with game publishers. For the most part, a tablet isn't a heavy duty productivity device. When you need to do serious work, you'll hit a laptop or a desktop. Therefore, game publishers are a key for HP. Everyone needs to work together to come out with attractive leisure and entertainment titles for the Slate. The mainstream market relates to this type of software far easier than things like office tools, FTP and file transfer utilities, remote control utilities and other things only savvy users would know.

Music, Movies and Books

HP is a big company. It has history. It has heritage, and most of all, it has clout. HP as a whole, wields tremendous power that most companies can only dream of having. In light of this, HP needs to start working with the entertainment industry to develop a viable and competitive platform to the iTunes store. While alternatives exist already, they're all small relative to iTunes' size. HP has the power to see the effor through thanks to its large pool of resources and that's what it needs to do. When it can show the entertainment industry an attractive user experience, they can attract publishers to take the bite.

The same can be said for books. In fact, HP can consider a partnership with Amazon, to make the Kindle store an official repository for the Slate. This would be an immediate advantage, one that millions of users are already familiar with. The fact that Amazon released a Kindle app for the iPad on the iPad's launch day, says that Amazon is willing to be flexible in order to save its Kindle business.

Making It All Come Together

There are a lot of things HP needs to do, to ensure the success of the Slate. It can't count on specifications alone. Tablets far more powerful than the iPad already exist in various forms. Yet they are tucked away into the niche-end of the market, doomed to be forgotten. The Slate can avoid the same fate if its mother company rises to the occasion to develop a cohesive and flourishing platform.

It's clear that HP sees the iPad as a very serious competitor to the Slate, otherwise it wouldn't create such internal presentations. But the presentation it created is blindsided by specs and doesn't address the platform issues. It's wonderful that the Slate has a built in webcam, a fast CPU, lots of memory, USB connectivity and user expandable storage. But they say history often repeats itself.

I for one, hope HP can take its Slate to grand success. It can only be good for consumers.

HP on the other hand cannot count on hopes and wishes alone--it needs desire. For a wish for something may or may not come true. But desire won't go away until that something is true.

Go HP.

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  • 3 Hide
    jamac666 , 6 April 2010 17:16
    C'mon HP you can do it!!!! Please beat Apple.
  • 0 Hide
    longerlife , 6 April 2010 17:38
    To an extent I agree with everything in this article, if HP are planning on taking on the iPad directly. It does need to provide a more simple i-experience front-end for the average consumer, than a full blown operating experience will provide.

    If they can somehow draw people in with a slick easy to use front end with accessible applications while still providing them access to a full computing experience 'behind the scenes' I think they will be on to a winner.

    I have often considered how different my life would have been had my parents bought me a console when I was a kid instead of a computer. Consoles are great for playing games, they crash much less often than computers, have very little in the way of technical issues, and achieve their entertainment aim, by and large, with aplomb.

    Conversely computers crash, they are troublesome, often messy, you can customise and dabble in almost infinite ways. You get suckered into computers, starting out with simple tasks and basic software use, years later you find yourself programming, designing, digging deep into the guts of what makes the thing tick. In other words you learn and grow, and the experience is so much more rewarding for it.

    Apple's consumer products are rigid console like devices, like consoles and growth stunting sweets they provide instant gratification and 'just work', but in the end they only provide the most shallow (and money orientated) experience.

  • 0 Hide
    excalibur1814 , 6 April 2010 17:43
    Ok. I've used a LOT of tablets over the years as I love the form factor. So far, the HP tc1100 has the best form factor, the Dell Latitude XT has the best touch (once you replace the hard drive with SSD) and I use an Asus R2h for downloads. (Samsung Q1 ultra was quite good.)

    What I personally want, is an updated tc1100, with core 2 (at least 1.6Ghz) and SSD, along with multi-touch for the on screen keyboard. Set the dpi to 125% and windows 7 is absolutely fantastic as a purely 'touch' device. If you haven't set the dpi to more than 100%, then you won't know how good it is.

    Wish list:
    Core 2
    SSD drive
    1 USB port
    front facing camera
    9" or 10" display
    at least 2Gb ram but 4 would be heaven
    2x SDHC card slots. One for storage, one for backup

    That's it.

    I'm afraid that all future tablets will be Atom based and not suitable for real work. Voice dictation, fro instance, requires a core 2 (Drgaon Naturally SPeaking) and I've been waiting for a suitable tablet just for that.
  • Display all 17 comments.
  • 0 Hide
    longerlife , 6 April 2010 17:47
    Oh and they should DEFINITELY work with other companies (such as Amazon) to bring media consumption to the device in an easy to use consumer friendly way.... (GREAT IDEA).

  • 0 Hide
    Skid , 6 April 2010 17:54
    The price you have in red isn't valid, thats for the 16GB version of iPad, the slate doesn't come in a 16GB version, so the $599 for the 32GB iPad is more expensive then HP $549 cheapest.
  • 1 Hide
    mi1ez , 6 April 2010 19:33
    HP does not have a well built, well populated and well integrated applications repository and store.
    HP does not have a multi-studio backed music and movies store.
    HP does not have a widely populated books and magazines store.

    HP runs windows, it doesn't need cut down "apps"
    If you install iTunes, then HP doesn't need it's own music store, you have the same functionality as the iPad
    As above. Install whatever eReader software you want. You have greater freedom.
  • 0 Hide
    excalibur1814 , 6 April 2010 20:28

    I was going to pretty much write the same as you but stopped as I cannot believe the article writer doesn't know this?? Baffles me.
  • 0 Hide
    LePhuronn , 6 April 2010 21:16
    Concurring with everything stated above, these so-called "HP threats" are only so IF you take the standpoint that Apple's strategy is correct.

    While I do see the benefits to having a controlled ecosystem, it will and does work as a massive negative point for many tech-users, relegating the iPad to an expensive toy.

    HP, by all means have a governing body to oversee the production of the Slate UI and Slate Apps, but at the end of the day all you need to do is run a full OS on the device, with all the freedoms that come with it, and you will automatically have an contender in this market space - i.e. everybody who enjoys/curious in the tablet form factor yet thinks the iPad is a toy and wants the freedom to do "proper" work on it.

    Personally, I don't want to see HP go down the same route as a lot of Windows Mobile phone manufacturers, specifically HTC, and try to put a more intuitive interface over an underlying OS. HTC TouchFlo is clumsy and jumbled because it's trying to operate the underlying WinMo, yet can't possibly do it all so the user has to drop into WinMo direct to do a lot of things anyway - seamless and intuitive? I think not.

    Instead, push hard with Microsoft to develop a featured, yet specific, version of Windows 7 (or at the very least develop a Windows 7 UI theme and have it set as standard) that makes finger usage intuitive on your screen.

    THEN you won't need to compete with the iPad - you're either in a different (and probably bigger) market segment, or the iPad will simply not be any competition to you, relegating it to a niche product like most of Apple's other offerings.
  • 1 Hide
    donovands , 6 April 2010 21:22
    No, I get it. What apple has done is create a device almost solely for media consumption. It's not the hardware, it's the software. Intuitive custom touch oriented interface coupled with massive libraries of easily accessible media that's so easy to understand your grandmother could use it. Techies will hate it, but the rest of the world I can see wanting an iPad. Whereas a Slate is a computer, with all that implies, instead of a purpose oriented device like an iPod. I'm not even sure the two products belong in the same category.
  • 0 Hide
    ukgooey , 6 April 2010 23:45
    Why would you want to work on this? It's awkward, surely?

    It's a media device, pure and simple. I mean, I hate Apple, but what they are providing (and the reason they are so popular) is something non-tech minded consumers (that is most consumers) can use and look good using. The majority of people on here may not like the iPad, (including me) but that's cos we are aware that it's a big electronic shit in a little flat telly. The majority of us need something technically superior and like to mess with our software, so Apple hardware just doesn't cut it. Unlike the average consumer, we understand that it isn't as awesome as it looks.

    Which brings me on to my next point; Apple hardware tax. And it does exist, so any fanboys can do one. Just add up the cost of similar hardware to a Mac, then add the price of a copy of Snow Leopard and check out the discrepancy. I'll pretty much guarantee that the same applies to the iPad.

    Admittedly, Apple have some awesome UI's, but if the OS is what they're charging you for, how come OS X is so cheap?

    And yes, HTC could do awesome things with a decent slate and Android. Goes without saying given the quality of the phones. And it'd be a hell of a lot cheaper too, even with a burgeoning Android Marketplace.
  • 3 Hide
    LePhuronn , 7 April 2010 00:05
    I'll be honest here and say that I want a tablet for no other reason than:

    1 - media and web use
    2 - sharing said media and web use
    3 - reading and sharing data on my own Star Trek PADD
    4 - remotely configuring my Rampage III Extreme on a touchscreen tablet just like Star Trek and Formula 1 engineers used to do

    Now herein lies the core argument: I'm looking for a tablet COMPUTER, not a tablet INTERNET MEDIA DEVICE. As a result, it's point 4 that immediately rules out the iPad and anything that will be restricted to custom-built apps/widgets, be they in a controlled App Store or not. If I want to install a bit of software or do something outside of the pre-defined usage I can't, even if it's a one-shot deal like ROG Connect will be.

    Will I use it for any serious work? Doubtful, but I *might* do some now and again, and for simply that reason I want freedom to put ANY software on MY device that I want, and that's the big anti-IMD argument, the iPad being the shining (but by no means only) example. I'm not up-to-speed on Android but I believe this exact same argument applies to Android-powered devices - it's not a full OS, as a result my usage will be defined and limited to the apps I can download.

    Ultimately it comes to this: the HP Slate's big selling point should be it's a full computer (the usability of such we can debate separately) with all the freedoms that come with it. THAT is what will separate it from the iPad and the Android crowd. If you just want a portable web-enabled media device then the iPad and Android machines are designed to do that.

    As an aside, it will be interesting to see if the ROG Connect iPhone App can run on the iPad.
  • 0 Hide
    ukgooey , 7 April 2010 00:33
    @ LePhuronn

    How about a full Linux OS, with HTC/Apple quality UI on the/a Slate? That'd certainly do it for me.
  • 0 Hide
    LePhuronn , 7 April 2010 00:55
    ukgooey@ LePhuronnHow about a full Linux OS, with HTC/Apple quality UI on the/a Slate? That'd certainly do it for me.

    Damn straight!

    I'd just need ROG Connect ported to Linux then :p 
  • 1 Hide
    bv90andy , 7 April 2010 01:09
    "HP does not have a well built, well populated and well integrated applications repository and store.
    HP does not have a multi-studio backed music and movies store.
    HP does not have a widely populated books and magazines store."

    Seriously? windows has thousands if not millions of applications,many of them free, all available through Google.
    As for Music and movies one can use any store for example iTunes and books from amazon or google
  • 0 Hide
    ukgooey , 7 April 2010 06:25
    LePhuronnI'd just need ROG Connect ported to Linux then

    Or run it from a virtual machine on your Linux powered slate? It could work. And would look even cooler, flipping through Compiz screens and landing on a fully maximized ROG Connect application :) 
  • 0 Hide
    mofnet , 7 April 2010 07:43
    as a software developer for more than 20 years now, it is fascinating for me to see how long it will take apple to "connect" the app store eco system it has built to the mac desktop and therefore bridge the gap that currently exists between this "app store" environment and the genuine desktop. it is frantically introducing new devices to the app store eco system (curently ipod touch, iphone, ipad), eventually it has to allow these apps to run on its desktop systems... its merely a matter of when not if... and once it does, it opens the door to the app store developers developing fully fledged desktop apps and truely moves into current microsoft windows territory..

    we must also not loose site of the fact that this app store eco system is customer centric (easy to use and customer friendly) as appose to the current state of the pc eco system which still largely belongs to the technically minded among us. microsoft will have to move windows into this new customer centric arena if they are to maintain their grip on the consumer pc industry, it will be interesting to see how they try to achieve this..
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 9 April 2010 01:19
    What the heck? Slate runs Windows - there are TENS of MILLIONS of applications that will run on it!!! I think people need to step out of their fascination with how Apple does things, and realize that its successes have been quite limited where it competes with Windows!