Somewhere in the middle of this week, Apple dropped the news on their iPad “tablet”, putting an end to almost a decade of rumors and speculation about their mythical tablet. Well, turns out the Apple iPad is not what people had expected it to be; in fact, far from it. While initial speculation and plenty of wishful thinking portrayed the “future” (then-vaporware) Apple iPad to be the best of both worlds – iPhone ease of use and fluid touch interface combined with full (or almost full) Mac OS X operating system functionality and features – the real deal turned out to be quite underwhelming. So, what is the Apple iPad exactly? Is it a revolutionary (or magical, as Apple puts it on their website) device? Is it the best thing since sliced bread, or at least, the best thing since the iPhone was announced? No, and no. The Apple iPad is nothing more than a “big” iPod Touch; as many people would put it, and I have to agree.
So far, the Apple iPad has invoked mostly negative responses from the public, while I’m seeing plenty of media publications still trying to hype up the product in an effort to cover up its shortcomings. Nope, I’m not trying to bash the Apple iPad here just because this site is called the “HP Fansite” – granted I have had a good experience with HP’s stuff, I have used/tested many other products of various brands before and I make an effort to provide unbiased, constructive views of other brands’ goods (and when needed, criticisms with concrete reasoning). I have a handful buddies who are big supporters of Apple, and yet, they agree and have been wondering “what was Apple thinking?!” when word first came out about the iPad and its features and functions. “Far off from what I had expected it to be” was everyone’s main response, Apple loyalist or not, when I asked them what they thought of the iPad at a dinner gathering + Left4Dead 2 LAN party on Thursday. In case anyone was wondering, YES, Apple fans who also own Windows PC’s (for gaming, non-Mac supported applications and such) and don’t act like the fanboys you see on the internet do indeed exist – and they’re nice people to talk to!
Conveniently, there was a short, little feature video about the HP Slate posted this very week, just less than two days before Apple’s official announcement of the iPad. In many ways, the HP Slate is similar to the Apple iPad – that touchscreen-only (no physical keyboard) form factor, similar size and design, ability to function as e-book readers and multimedia devices, and even identical starting price of $500! The main areas where the HP Slate pulls away, far ahead of the Apple iPad, is in terms of operating system, functionality and performance. Here’s how:
- The HP Slate will come with a full-fledged Windows 7 operating system, and knowing HP, probably enhanced for touchscreen input with an additional interface overlay (such as Bump Top 3D found on the HP Touchsmart tm2). On the other hand, the Apple iPad runs on a variation of the iPod Touch/iPhone OS, which we all know many appreciate but a mobile operating system just doesn’t cut it on a non-mobile phone device and pales in comparison to a full desktop experience OS.
- I remember clearly that just three years ago, Apple was boasting about the “widescreen” on its iPhone (well, not true widescreen anyway, since it has a 3:2 ratio, but that’s just Apple…) and now the iPad comes with a non-widescreen 4:3 touch display. Chances are you won’t be running AutoCAD with a slim and portable device under 10 inches, but would like to play some music or watch a movie or two on it. That’s just it – the HP Slate’s 16:10 widescreen display ensures that precious screen real estate is mostly dedicated to the video/movie you’re watching… instead of the thick black letterbox bars above/below your movie on the iPad’s 4:3 non-wide display
- Adobe Flash – if you’ve been keeping up (or managed to keep up) with the flood of Apple iPad news-hype by various media outlets, you would know on the sidelines, a certain big company called Adobe (you know, they guys who develop Photoshop and Illustrator) have been and are still busy complaining about Apple’s refusal to support Adobe Flash on their iPod Touch, iPhone and now, iPad devices. That means no Hulu TV playback, no Facebook or Flash games, no YouTube, no interactive websites, no this and no that on the Apple iPad. All those things that you take for granted on your computer (Facebook games and YouTube seem to be the most prominent, based on what I’ve seen), you can NOT do on the Apple iPad because it lacks Adobe Flash.
All that happening while you can be happily skipping along, maintaining your Farmville farms on Facebook, watching your favorite TV shows on Hulu and Iron Man 2 trailer on YouTube using the HP Slate. As I mentioned, the HP Slate runs Windows 7, which will gladly support Adobe Flash, Microsoft Silverlight, Sun Java and any other application you use on your ‘full-size’ notebook or desktop!
- High definition video playback – the HP Slate can play back high definition (720p) video and movies, and is likely to be able to play them on your huge living room TV via a built-in HDMI or DisplayPort output port. The Apple iPad, in comparison, can only playback ‘standard definition’ 576p video. And you gotta see it to believe it – watching HD movies and videos compared to ‘standard’ ones can make a whole world of difference in detail levels and entertainment immersion (sorta).
In short, the HP Slate is everything that people wanted the Apple iPad to be, but the iPad just isn’t that dream device everyone had expected – again, it’s just a big iPod Touch! The factor that plays a part in ‘who wins’ is when HP will make the HP Slate available to the masses. Apple has already set a release date for the iPad for March 2010, while HP has given a rather vague “available in 2010” availability date for the HP Slate. If HP gets their act together in time and releases the Slate around the same time or perhaps slightly after the iPad, then it could deliver a potential blow to Apple’s ‘tablet’ sales.
With the same base price with far more features and functions, it’s a close-to brainless decision to pick the HP Slate over the Apple iPad (unless you’re that Apple kool-aid drinking guy/girl still wearing your pair of rose-tinted shades when you purchase the iPad)
Another factor that will determine the iPad’s success/failure is consumer awareness. The HP Slate made a big debut at CES 2010 (thanks to the announcement made together with Microsoft) but apparently not big enough, as I see it. There are still many people who don’t know about the HP Slate, but do know about the Apple iPad. Then there’s brainwashing by the media – I know consumers nowadays are slightly more informed and up to date with information than before, but that too, is not enough. The truth needs to get out there (preferably by March 2010) so that the Apple iPad isn’t as pretty or cool or useful as the media portray it to be. Really, I’m sounding like a broken tape recorder and you may have heard this on other sites as well – the Apple iPad is nothing more but a big iPod Touch, and it’s true.
I still foresee, however, that Apple will still sell at least a truckload of iPad’s because there are still people who want it (no matter how incapable and useless it is, especially if you already have an iPod Touch or iPhone or Zune HD) just to look uber cool in front of their friends.
Nevertheless, the final outcome of this battle will become apparent once both the HP Slate and Apple iPad start selling, and sales figures are posted. A very interesting battle indeed, and an exciting 2010 to come!