Editorial

HP Slate 2: Too early, too expensive, and a stylus

Last week, I praised HP CEO Meg Whitman for reversing the decision to spin off their PC business.  While the stated reasons were purely financial, I believed that Whitman had sincerely learned from another company’s mistakes (Netflix) and that this was a great sign for future decisions made by the new CEO.

Then HP announces that they aren’t backing out of the tablet business, and the Slate 2 is shown to the public, a Windows device with a stylus, starting at $699. All of a sudden, I’m not so sure I was correct in judging the new HP leadership favorably.

Let’s review the events of the past couple of months. On July 1, HP releases the Touchpad amidst hype that its purchase of Palm and WebOS was finally coming to fruition. Proponents and fans of Palm’s well-designed but ill-fated mobile OS rejoice as it reaches the public eye again and is tweaked for tablet use. Reviewers and consumers aren’t so sure that this is the best implementation of WebOS, and complain of sluggish UI, bugginess and general but expected lack of quality tablet software.  They also released it at $499/$599 (16GB/32GB). Naturally, it failed miserably.

Fast forward a very short few weeks, and HP can’t salvage the Touchpad. They decide to discontinue it and are forced to sell off the remaining retail stock at $99/$150. All of a sudden, it’s Christmas in August, and people are lining up outside Best Buy for hours to try and snag one of those super cool HP iPads (Overheard in line at 7AM outside my local Best Buy).  New reviews popped up raving about how different and simple WebOS is, and that HP released a patch that speeds up everything and fixes a lot of the issues that bogged down the release version. Deal-hungry consumers were refreshing retail websites 7 times a minute in anticipation of stock delivery. It was a pretty big deal.

Unfortunately for those who didn’t get one at rock bottom price, HP did actually discontinue the Touchpad, and it seemed like it sulked away with its tail between its legs, upset but proud owners of some great new market research about what makes consumers tick.

What can we learn from the Touchpad fiasco? I’m sure members of the HP board of directors asked this question quite a few times, and I’m hoping that the answers revolved around the following tenet: Don’t release a device that consumers will perceive to be inferior to the iPad (Let’s face it: Just about anything that isn’t an iPad), and then make it more expensive than the iPad. This is common sense. The moment that the Touchpad dropped its price point, it sold like Bieber tickets.

When HP puts out a Windows 7 tablet that is only slightly more updated than its predecessor, running Windows 7 on an Atom processor, and it uses a stylus, I applaud the effort to let WebOS lay low for a bit and attack the tablet market from a different angle. When HP sells it starting at $699, I find out which executive was responsible and fire him/her immediately. That’s outrageous. Selling anything with an Atom processor for more than $300 is a tough sell to begin with when Samsung is shipping their Chromebook with an i5 for less, and the Windows 7/Stylus concept hasn’t been wildly successful in any other product to date. The timing couldn’t have been worse; the months before a slew of new Android tablets are released and old tablets are upgraded to Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS, if you’re cool), is simply not the right time to release an expensive Atom tablet with a stylus.  

A true Windows 8 tablet may have deserved that price point, but that’s anyone’s guess this early in its development. If HP learned anything from the Touchpad (and they obviously didn’t), it’s that price point can and will make or break a product. The Slate 2 is too early, too expensive, and will continue to diminish HP’s tablet prospects for the future. It’s decisions like these that make me wonder if HP really should have spun off its PC division after all. If this how you get back into the tablet game, maybe you should just stick with enterprise services.

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I completely disagree. This isn't targeted at people who would buy a TouchPad or an iPad or even a Windows 8 tablet. This is aimed towards people who need one in enterprise. Who need a stylus. Architects, graphic designers and the like.

These people will pay the price tag for such a product. Stylus' have their place. I don't mind them, actually. Better than just tapping at a crappy keyboard.

Owen W said,
I completely disagree. This isn't targeted at people who would buy a TouchPad or an iPad or even a Windows 8 tablet. This is aimed towards people who need one in enterprise. Who need a stylus. Architects, graphic designers and the like.

These people will pay the price tag for such a product. Stylus' have their place. I don't mind them, actually. Better than just tapping at a crappy keyboard.

+1

What is weird is that people seem to think a Stylus is just a pen to point at the screen, and forget that they are pressure sensitive, do angle and tilt and other input capabilities used in drawing and handwriting that an iPad or other type of tablet is not capable of doing.

TabletPCs were not designed based on a simple touch interface, they were designed to have much 'richer' input experiences that the iPad generation of consumers get cheated out of experiencing.

Even Windows Smartphones before the iPhone existed had pressure sensitive displays using the Stylus and a couple had it with touch as well.

(Oddly, even the ZuneHD with touch only did pressure sensitive input, yet the iPad 'norm' has removed this from expectations and retarded the tablet/phone industry.)

The author should probably get out of his own private consumer world and realize that there's a big corporate demand for windows based tablets. Versatility, compatibility, portability and most of all security. These things simply slot into their usual ecosystem.

As for the stylus, it simply makes it easier to use. And if it's a proper tablet stylus it's also awesome for artists or people who want something they can take notes or sketch or write one.

It's a hardware refresh that's been in the pipe for something like nine months. Ever try taking notes with an on screen keyboard? A Stylus, OneNote and ink to text are prefect. I write, OneNote converts, my notes get indexed and shared with my team.

Sure the Samsung 7 Slate is Windows 8 ready, but this will work for now and at almost the same price as the TouchPad was when HP released it. Oh and the Slate 2 has more available assp than the iPad or TouchPad. so Neeeh.

price is high, but the part about stylus is just pure ignorance. it's not a stylus on top of that, it's a freaking wacom digitizer with pressure sensitivity and such (so no wonder about higher price), and said pressure sensitivity can be expanded by having more advanced compatible pen.
sure, browsing is more comfortable using touch (which Slate 2 does have also) but when in comes to handwriting, sketching and drawing - nothing beats digitizer.
I'm not defending HP or this particular tablet, I'm just saying it's sad how wacom enabled tablet PC's are underrated or unknown to general public.

х.iso said,
price is high, but the part about stylus is just pure ignorance. it's not a stylus on top of that, it's a freaking wacom digitizer with pressure sensitivity and such (so no wonder about higher price), and said pressure sensitivity can be expanded by having more advanced compatible pen.
sure, browsing is more comfortable using touch (which Slate 2 does have also) but when in comes to handwriting, sketching and drawing - nothing beats digitizer.
I'm not defending HP or this particular tablet, I'm just saying it's sad how wacom enabled tablet PC's are underrated or unknown to general public.

+1

It is either ignorance or youth that don't remember just a couple of years ago Wacom was selling digitizers with built in displays for $1500 used by real artists and designers. Seeing that Wacom is still in business and sold a TON of those devices as well, it could have some importance.

However, kids like to fingerpaint, and until they know better will continue to finger paint.

When did Stylus' become so demonised?

I am willing to bet the majority of you havent used a tablet with one. Whilst Windows was in dire need of a Win8 style UI to make the touch experience more rich and friendly, MS Windows has great pen recognition which doesnt need to be tossed out the window.

Why not have the best of both worlds.

But even with a more reasonable price point this device would be doomed to fail because on the current achitecture you cannot get a full day business use out of a Windows tablet. Nor does the current version of windows support a touch friendly UI. HP and others need to back off and wait for WIn8 to roll out and start producing hardware which can give people all day battery life at a comparable price point.

As to those saying its not suitable for windows 8 this is sort of true. The native resolution is 1024x600 but you can up it to 1024x768 if you like. So you can run metro applications on it but you can't use the new side by side feature for metro apps. (Tested it with Windows 8.)

Also, only the starting price is cheaper (32gb), the original slate was 64gb only and the 64gb version of the slate 2 is still the same $799 as the original slate 500.

pupdawg21 said,
As to those saying its not suitable for windows 8 this is sort of true. The native resolution is 1024x600 but you can up it to 1024x768 if you like. So you can run metro applications on it but you can't use the new side by side feature for metro apps. (Tested it with Windows 8.)

Also, only the starting price is cheaper (32gb), the original slate was 64gb only and the 64gb version of the slate 2 is still the same $799 as the original slate 500.

1024x768 will cause it to scale. This will cause things to get distorted and look bad.

There likely won't be a fire sale on this just like there never was a fire sale for the original HP slate 500. BTW, The HP Touchpad will be on sale at a few places tomorrow afternoon online. However, its bundles only.

Windows 7/Stylus concept hasn't been wildly successful in any other product to date

Seriously? What your metric or reality?

In business and corporate users, Windows7 touch and Windows7 touch/stylus is far more 'wildly' used than any other tablet/touch/slate device.

I know the iPad movement with consumers and the cute commercials make people forget reality, but when it comes to the real world, companies doing large deployment of Windows7 convertible/slate/TabletPC devices is far more prevalent than what people inside the Apple bubble realize.

I also find it curious that this article, like others, tend to 'downplay' the Stylus like it is some 'old technology'... Yet having a 'stylus' that is pressure sensitive is far more productive for paint, drawing, and handwriting. The handwriting part is not as easy as a keyboard for some users, but for non-keyboard users is far easier, and is also far easier and faster than an iPad with a touch screen only keyboard solution.

I guess some people are still stuck at finger painting. Without pressure sensitive displays.

I personally prefer drawing with a real feeling pencil/pen/paintbrush, and like for my handwritten notes to be recognized and retained with my doodles and side notes that are scribbled on the side of the page.

Also being Windows 7, I also like to have my meeting recorded with the time-line of my notes synchronized with the audio. It is also handy to have the audio transcribed as needed so I can dictate several pages of typing faster than even a proficient typist can produce. When I'm working on a book, project, and ideas.

---

I agree the price is a bit high on this device with the Atom processor.

However, have you asked yourself why the price is so high on the iPad, when it is slower than this computer with the Atom processsor? Funny that little facts like that are overlooked.

Especially when this device is 10 to 1000 times faster than an iPad2, for things that people 'think' the iPad is designed for, like web browsing, light applications, video, media, etc.

So ya, this is a bit overpriced for an Atom device, but using this metric the ARM based iPad2 is horribly overpriced.

When can we expect the article exposing the iPad for its high price and low performance and lack of a pressure sensitive display that can use a real Stylus?

*My performance numbers and comparison is based on the first generation HP Slate, so the performance notes above and personal impressions should be a larger difference and more contrastive when compared to an iPad2.

Edited by thenetavenger, Nov 4 2011, 3:38am :

smooth3006 said,
Boy you people are brutal on here anymore. They should close any comments on their future articles.

Exactly, and we should stop visiting this site all together... Good idea (question mark)

It seems that HP hasn't learn its lesson! Highly priced, low spec (for the price), too late, it comes among a sea of other tablets that more or less have established a certain status in sales.
It will end up like it's previous fail.

Nikos_GR said,
It seems that HP hasn't learn its lesson! Highly priced, low spec (for the price), too late, it comes among a sea of other tablets that more or less have established a certain status in sales.
It will end up like it's previous fail.

The display costs as much as the cheaper netbooks slates alone, and this author and other don't seem to understand that REAL digitizer quality/level screens are not iPad cheap...

(And ironically, the freaking iPad is more expensive and 10 to 100 times slower)

HP should have released an Android tablet instead. Windows 7 on tablets is like Windows mobile on smartphones - a lame duck.

Joey S said,
HP should have released an Android tablet instead. Windows 7 on tablets is like Windows mobile on smartphones - a lame duck.

Funny...

(Wait, you weren't being serious, were you?)

Android isn't as fast as people think, especially when you get to desktop class hardware and can run numbers comparing it against something like Windows 7.

Great product but this price!! I am happy finally a tablet is coming out with stylus AND touch. Perfect for drawing with my kids. Now if this was in the 400$ it would be a no brainer ( for me) but at this price point it is a hard no.

There are plenty of windows slates coming but I WANT pen and have been considering the much more expensive Asus EP121. I think I am in on this one. Too expensive?? I bought my wife an iPad for this much and she watches movies and plays games. Really?

thenetavenger has it right. REAL digitizers are expensive (too bad).

I have been using some sort of pen input since the first Palm. I have an iPhone and really miss having a good input option but then we all know how poorly Apple has done keyboards. (predictive text anyone?)

Ok, update. Looking at HP's site. The pen is EXTRA (fail) and does not have a slot for it in the tablet (double fail).

I just don't get why these guys can get these 90% right but then stop. That is my frustration. I get that the digitizer is expensive but if I decide it is worth it and want to spend the money, don't nickel and dime me.

Why have it if you charge extra for a pen and then ensure I won't have that pen when I need it! (lost/etc.)

Darn you HP, you almost had me.

The info available on HP's website is confusing. In the US the Slate 2 comes with Digitizer Pen, Cradle Dock, Folio Case and AC Power Adapter for the prices quoted. For other countries the answer may be different.

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