HP was apparently working on an Android tablet along with a Windows 7 and webOS model. Yeah, all three at the same time. The Android flavor was even scheduled for a late-2010 release. But the project was reportable canned just like the Windows 7 edition.
That’s probably for the best, really. It’s not that surprising to hear that HP had three different versions of the Slate in development all at the same time. The goal was likely to determine which one was best suited for the market and not to release three tablets each on a different platform. It seems, however, the best option won and HP is going with the webOS over Windows 7 or Android.
We learned a few weeks back that HP killed off the Windows 7 version of the Slate. This is best for the vast majority of users. Yes, I know some want a tablet with a full OS, complete with its pros and cons. But the rest of us would prefer a user interface that’s originally designed for finger input and hardware efficiency — like Android or webOS. Wilson Rothman laid out four totally valid reasons why Windows 7 won’t work on a tablet. (This is me attempting to get you to flaming him and not me)
HP has a unique vantage point of the whole tablet market. They haven’t released a model yet. Instead of simply outing an iPad alternative right away, they are taking their time and are doing it right. They might have even bought Palm for over a $1 billion dollars just for the spectacular webOS platform with the tablet market in mind.
Android tablets simply aren’t selling well. Mostly because manufacturers seem to think that the platform is well-suited for the job. It’s not. Android makes for a fantastic smartphone experience, but so far I’ve yet to see that translate into an equally as good tablet. Most Marketplace apps do not work, forcing the device to stand on its own with just the OEM-installed applications. The novelty factor wears out very quickly when there are very few new apps to discover. IPad owners can attest to that.
WebOS might be different, though. The interface complete with its sliding cards and unifying goal should be up to the task. WebOS even does web browsing slightly better than Android. But more importantly, HP now owns Palm and webOS meaning the can shift huge resources into developing stellar apps.
However, a webOS Slate will still have the app problem that Android has right now. Unless HP pulls an Apple and hosts a webOS development event before the Slate launches. HP needs to remind devs why they should support webOS after it so publicly failed the first time around.
This is where the Windows 7 fans will chime in and loudly proclaim that a Windows tablet wouldn’t have these issues. A Windows tablet would be compatible with tens of thousands of applications right at launch. And they are right. However, there are nearly zero Windows programs developed with a touch interface in mind. They are all designed to work with a mouse and keyboard. Even Windows 7′s improved touchscreen support does not make for that pleasing of an experience. No matter what justification you’ve heard, the fact remains that Windows 7 simply wasn’t designed for a small touchscreen.
HP must be pleased with the amount of press the Slate is getting. It’s nearing the type of coverage an Apple product gets before its launch. That’s probably because people are actually looking to HP to build the anti-iPad, but the Slate can’t be the so-called iPad killer. No, it needs to be different from the start and not a clone of anything else currently available. The Slate has the monumental task of stealing some of the iPad’s massive marketshare, but more importantly, force true innovation in the tablet space rather simply following Apple’s lead.