Put images of the ill-fated Hewlett-Packard TouchPad out of your memory. The purported design and specifications of the forthcoming HP Slate 8 powered by Windows 8, expected out this fall, points to a robust mobile computing device that will appeal to consumer and business users alike. Our speculation: The Slate 8 will become a part of the accessory options of business users.
Plans for the HP Slate 8 were leaked over the weekend and quickly went viral. The device is as large as the Apple iPad with a 10.1-inch screen, but thinner and lighter. It sports 8 to 10 hours of battery life, and includes both touch and digital pen interfaces. And, for business users, it includes easier integration with Windows-based networks and applications.
All this should make the new tablet attractive to business users, but equally usable by consumers. While HP is saying nothing publicly about the tablet or its reported features, expectations are for the tablet to hit the market sometime late in the third quarter in time for the holiday shopping season.
HP hasn’t said much about its tablet strategy in the channel. Perhaps that’s part of the hangover from the disastrous tablet experiment known as the HP TouchPad. For that product, HP promised a concerted channel push, hoping partners would drive the WebOS-powered device into the enterprise and steal share away from the vaunted iPad. HP, a channel-centric company, will likely engage partners through the newly formed Printer and Personal System group under channel chief Mike Parrottino.
Around the same time HP releases Slate 8, it will be among the throng of vendors releasing new Intel-powered ultrabooks – thin, lightweight and powerful PCs that share many of the attributes of touch-screen tablets and conventional notebooks. Apple CEO Tim Cook recently dismissed the ultrabook concept as unworkable. He said combining a tablet and notebook would be like “combining a toaster and refrigerator.”
Cook is wrong on so many levels. At the recent Intel Solutions Summit in New Orleans, the chipmaker had several ultrabook concept and working models on display. The idea behind the ultrabook is sound, as it provides options that are currently unavailable in desktops, notebooks or tablets. At the same time, Intel expects a huge uptick in the adoption of All-in-One PCs, desktops that also share touch-screen interfaces in a consolidate form factor.
Since everyone is speculating about the future of tablets, ultrabooks and mobility, let’s take the Slate 8 value proposition to a new level: a mobile accessory. In fact, many mobile devices will become accessories no different than bracelets, rings and watches.
We’re already seeing evidence of this among business users. Increasingly business travels are leaving their notebooks at home in favor of tablets. If they need just enough access and power to check email and read documents, why carry a 2-pound, inch-thick laptop? When at home or in the office, business and consumer users want power, so they’re increasingly turning to desktops – most notably the AIO variety promoted by Intel. And, of course, users need power and mobility, which will breathe new life into conventional laptops and ultrabooks.
The future of mobility may not be in the displacement of incumbent devices and brands, but rather complementing them by giving users choice. The average user will likely have multiple tablets, computers and mobile devices that match their varying needs. They will pick their computing device off the shelf like they do cufflinks and earrings to match specific circumstances. And they’ll do this thanks, in large part, to Moore’s Law, which is continually increasing processing power and lowering the price of these devices.
For the channel, this is all good news. It means they won’t have to defeat an incumbent vendor or device platform when selling new mobile devices. Rather, they will have to promote integration, portability and ease of use. And, of course, cloud-based storage, applications and file synchronization services will make multiple mobile devices more appealing and provide solution providers with recurring revenue.
The HP Slate 8 will likely find a market ready for its design and functionality. But it will likely take its place alongside multiple other devices in the users’ growing mobility arsenal.