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. A 30-second video released by HP shows these and other functions at work in the device, which will debut on an as-yet-unannounced date later in 2010. The sales success of the iPad in its first weekend raises the stakes for other competitors looking to carve out market share in the burgeoning consumer tablet PC market.
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 an April 5 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
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, ebooks, 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 a March 8 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 Jan. 27 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. In addition to 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 April 3. 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 1 million iPad apps and 250,000 ebooks.
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.
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.