Failed HP tablet kick-started Surface development

Before Microsoft overhauled the Windows interface with its Metro design language, it attempted to sell tablets with the standard Windows 7 interface to combat Apple's iPad. One of the first and most hyped Windows 7 tablets the company touted was HP Slate 500, a device that ultimately failed to reach much of an audience. According to a New York Times article, that failure actually paved the way for Microsoft's Surface tablets.

While the project started out smoothly, the tablet was soon "completely ruined," according to former Microsoft and HP executives, when HP's manufacturing organization began acquiring parts that were sub-standard. By the time the tablet was complete, it was "thick, the Intel processor it used made the device hot, and the software and screen hardware did not work well together, causing delays whenever a user tried to perform a touch action on its screen," the Times writes.

According to the report, Microsoft continued to work with third-party partners in an effort to create an iPad rival, but it continued to run into disagreements with those partners over issues such as price and design. At the same time, partners such as HP "fumed at Microsoft" for not creating Windows software that was better suited for touch-enabled devices. Part of Microsoft's lack of commitment to these tablet devices was because the company had already begun work on Windows 8, which would be a more touch-friendly operating system.

The report indicates HP's Slate 500 failure, along with the failure of its WebOS tablet, led Microsoft to begin investing in its own hardware development. Microsoft's hardware focus led to the use of magnesium in Surface's case, a decision made to rival the lightweight aluminum found in the iPad.

Source: The New York Times

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16 Comments

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The HP Slate 500 failed because it is a little hot, a little thick, and frequently slow. The touch response is frequently unresponsive and the screen has terrible viewing angles. (Wasted my money on one early on). The processor and graphics chips are too slow when using touch. Ironically if you hook a keyboard/mouse up to it, it responds much better doing the same tasks.

It failed the same reason the first 2010 Galaxy Tab running Gingerbread failed. Sticking a non-tablet OS in a tablet device doesn't work without the appropriate apps!

dagamer34 said,
It failed the same reason the first 2010 Galaxy Tab running Gingerbread failed. Sticking a non-tablet OS in a tablet device doesn't work without the appropriate apps!

You did know that TabletPCs, which Windows 7 includes all the TabletPC OS technology, have been selling for a long time and used successfully in hospitals and retail sales environments?

Go look up TabletPC and the industries where the OS works very well with touch and a stylus.

Windows 7 is more of a TABLET OS, than Android 4.0 and iOS in pure technical terms. The failure is in third party application support and developers failing to consider touch and tablet users. Just using Windows 7's UI and features, touch and pen work brilliantly.

Depending on which marketplace the HP Slate 500 and MS's Surface were targeted for, it was/will be a success or failure. If they were/are targeted for the consumer for games, Internet lookups, Tweeting, e-mail checking, and for executives for "show-n-tell" fine. If they expect to be used as a desktop replacement for the enterprise/business marketplace, they will fail. They just are not designed for intense data entry via touch typists using keyboards.

Wait ... why was this HP's fault?

CPU Choice: Since windows only ran in x86, it was either AMD or Intel.
Battery/Thickness: See CPU choice
Non Touch centric OS: It must run Windows 7 and hence related non touch optimised apps.

This article is complete bull****. Given the limitations of Windows 7, what the hell else could HP design other than the slate.

jasondefaoite said,
Wait ... why was this HP's fault?

CPU Choice: Since windows only ran in x86, it was either AMD or Intel.
Battery/Thickness: See CPU choice
Non Touch centric OS: It must run Windows 7 and hence related non touch optimised apps.

This article is complete bull****. Given the limitations of Windows 7, what the hell else could HP design other than the slate.

Samsung's slate is much better than HP's.

The HP Slate 500 was NOT a complete failure as it was NEVER targeted as a consumer device. It did fall short in that it wasn't going to be a desktop replacement, but as a Windows based tablet with both Pen and Touch interfaces it served its purpose.

webdev511 said,
The HP Slate 500 was NOT a complete failure as it was NEVER targeted as a consumer device. It did fall short in that it wasn't going to be a desktop replacement, but as a Windows based tablet with both Pen and Touch interfaces it served its purpose.

That's not correct. It was targeted as a consumer device when it was first announced at CES (HP even touted it as a multimedia tablet for consumers), but they changed the focus to enterprise/business customers not long before release. Their plans changed because the company bought WebOS and wanted to create its own consumer tablet line not tied to Windows.

jasondefaoite said,
Wait ... why was this HP's fault?

CPU Choice: Since windows only ran in x86, it was either AMD or Intel.
Battery/Thickness: See CPU choice
Non Touch centric OS: It must run Windows 7 and hence related non touch optimised apps.

This article is complete bull****. Given the limitations of Windows 7, what the hell else could HP design other than the slate.

Um, you do realize that there are MANY times of screen and chipset and CPU choices that all contributed to the problems that were all in HPs control and stepped outside of their original design model, right?

Just the screen alone can be the difference between an 'instant' response to the user and a noticeable lag, which has NOTHING to do with software.

Windows 7 included the most advanced and comprehensive touch driver technology in the history of OSes, prior to Windows 8. It has super fast response time drivers that can use 50 points of simultaneous touch that also includes pressure, shape, angle, tilt, and image of the point.

Blaming Windows 7 for the 'lag' or the 'heat' of the HP Slate is about a freaking crazy as I have seen today.

Have you see a 2007 Acer Aspire One netbook, that is tiny, light, and doesn't get hot? Then why would the HP tablet be heavy, slower response, and generate more heat, especially when it was made 2 years later and had all the advantages of CPU gains and size reduction that occurred in this time.

It is this simple.

The story doesn't seem to be too far off base to what I thought might have happened and caused MS to move towards their own in-house design.

We can blame MS for an OS that wasn't touch friendly but HP and others could have built an layered interface to interact with the mail, explorer, etc a little better on the tablet. It has been done and could have been improved upon.

With MS at the helm and from what has been revealed it looks like they really put a lot of effort into the new Surface Tablet. I can't wait to get my hands on one. My iPad gets relegated to movie, music and some work duties but light work only. It is not a PC and I know that.

With the new HD resolutions out for Win Phone 8 and the Surface to have synced cloud services between the devices MS is starting to move in the direction many have been hoping they would for a long time now. I hope they stay on course and can really make the Surface Pro Tablet a flagship device for others to mimic and improve on. Instead of them being mad they should be inspired to make a better product and stop the poor designs.

Obry said,
Hope that doesn't turn out to the fate of the Surface as well but so far doesn't sound that way

As long as the hardware allows the OS to run smoothly, it should be desirable. The windows phone / metro interface seems to work well on it.

Obry said,
Hope that doesn't turn out to the fate of the Surface as well but so far doesn't sound that way

What fate?

The SUR40 still isn't a consumer device. It costs like $8.5k.

Give it a few more years for the price to come down, and then it might be marketed towards high-end consumers.

MioTheGreat said,

What fate?

The SUR40 still isn't a consumer device. It costs like $8.5k.

Give it a few more years for the price to come down, and then it might be marketed towards high-end consumers.


Welcome to last week, the "Surface" you're referring to is actually called "PixelSense" and now the Surface is a 10" tablet pc.

siah1214 said,

Welcome to last week, the "Surface" you're referring to is actually called "PixelSense" and now the Surface is a 10" tablet pc.

I misread the comment, and thought he was implying that the PixelSense was a failure.