Reading Engadget's report on the HP Slate you would think that the computer manufacturer plans on releasing a Windows version of the Slate as a enterprise product was a sure sign that the tablet was in the Courier category. But let's cut HP some slack here, OK? (Engadget and others are responded to this story from Fortune magazine.)
Todd Bradley, executive vice president of the personal systems group division at HP, is quoted in Fortune as saying "I think you'll see us with a family of slate products, clearly a Microsoft product in the enterprise and a webOS product broadly-deployed." Translation: we'll launch a Windows version of the Slate, that will make Microsoft happy, but we'll launch a WebOS 2.0 version later, that will make consumers happy.
He is also quoted as saying "Slates are going to be an enormous category, this is just in its infancy."
Bradley is absolutely right. Assuming someone follows through on their promise to launch a tablet, whether it be Android or WebOS 2.0 based, the tablet category will be huge -- and that is a big win for those media executives who have already won their bet that the iPad would prove to be a good platform for publishers.
Nonetheless, there are several stories that have hit the web this morning that seem to imply -- actually, more than imply -- that HP's Slate is vapor ware. But tech reporting has gotten really sensationalistic lately, and very political, as websites take sides in the pro-anti Apple discussions -- many of the tech sites taking both sides in a cynical attempt to attract both types of readers.
Forgotten what the Slate was supposed to look like? This video was posted at the end of March by HP:
I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by the wild stories appearing this summer. I got a hint of this talking to publishers and app vendors in the late Spring. More than a few people told me that they had decided to wait to launch their first iPad efforts in order to live with the tablet a little. But they were now committed to launching tablet products by the end of summer (or early Fall, they sometimes admitted).
What that meant was that there would be a rush of new products early, then a lull as developers got to work. What is filling the void now are two kinds of products: those already in development that were delayed as the developers readjusted their efforts after seeing the actual iPad (think of the Wired and Sports Illustrated apps), and those apps from international publishers who had a bit more time since the tablet would not be launched in their countries until after the U.S. launch.
This pattern applies to the manufacturers, as well, I believe. Some manufacturers have pulled back or delayed their plans to launch their tablets after seeing the iPad. This is especially true in the e-ink category (think Skiff, the first story to appear on TNM about their tablet was in very early January).
HP was probably talked into continuing its Windows version of the Slate by Microsoft who must have been hugely embarrassed when word was released that HP would abandon Windows as a tablet OS and proceeded to buy Palm with its own mobile OS.
But HP is a huge company, capable of launching a Windows version and claiming it is really for enterprise. Unlike Apple which launched one phone model (with different storage capacities) instead of a line of phones, HP is in the mass marketing game of producing lots of products, each with small profit margins. It's a tough game to be in, but that's HP piece of the pie.
This is the 15th post I've written for this site this week -- way more than I intended. As I wrote a while back I have decided to scale back my efforts here as I decide my next moves (initially I intended to close this site completely, but working at TNM is addictive, and the feedback from readers has been gratifying).
Frankly, I would really like to lead a media company's electronic publishing efforts -- either my own company's efforts, or those of another -- but those opportunities continue to be rare, and the media bankers out there continue to be way behind the curve when it comes to electronic media. In the meantime, I continue to work on my own efforts to launch another site, this time more consumer oriented.
So thanks for continuing to read Talking New Media. Come back daily, but don't expect 15 to 20 posts a week as the norm!