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Troubled tablets? RIM's 'BlackPad,' HP's Win 7 slate

Now that Apple's shown how to make a tablet computer a mass-market phenomenon with the iPad (coming to Target Oct. 3), everybody else apparently wants to get into the market.

But not everybody else will succeed. Google's Android operating system -- if manufacturers can resist the temptation to screw it up -- could work well on a tablet. So could another mobile-optimized system, HP's recently acquired Palm webOS.

I'm not sure about the tablet that BlackBerry maker Research In Motion will supposedly unveil next week. Popularly nicknamed the "BlackPad," this device -- to judge from reports such as PC World's summary -- will combine a 7-inch touchscreen and video-conferencing cameras. It could also feature a slide-out keyboard.

But it will also apparently run on a new operating system -- not the BlackBerry 6 software RIM just launched to great fanfare on the BlackBerry Torch. Sure, BlackBerry 6 isn't all that great. But a replacement operating system will offer an even worse selection of add-on programs unless it can run older titles in some sort of compatibility mode (usually an awkward experience).

Then there's the Windows 7 slate computer that Hewlett-Packard showed off at CES in January, then seemed to have forgotten. Yesterday, Engadget pointed to a video tour of a prototype that suggests this thing hasn't died -- but may meet that fate once it ships.

The product on display in that clip seems to exhibit the same faults I saw in prototype slates at CES: It runs a conventional Windows interface that has been modified, clumsily, to accept touch input. Note, for instance, how the onscreen keyboard doesn't open when the guy in the demo selects Internet Explorer 8's address bar. And what's up with a dedicated Ctrl-Alt-Del key on the side of the thing?

The HP slate looks sleek enough. But just building a shinier box and sticking the same old software in it won't work -- that's the thinking that brought us the woeful BlackBerry Storm.

What's your forecast for either of these two devices? Where do you think the iPad's best competition will come from?

By Rob Pegoraro  | September 24, 2010; 3:22 PM ET
Categories:  Gadgets, Mobile, Windows  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Notes on three new Android phones: Verizon's Fascinate and Droid 2, Sprint's Epic
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Great analysis Rob!

As stated by Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, iPad was actually in development prior to the iPhone. Therefore, in addition to the development time iPad had prior to the iPhone's release, iPad also benefited from what Apple learned from the iPhone being in people's hands for several years. We are talking a lot of iterations folks!

Competitors like RIM, Dell, Samsung, etc. thinking they can arrive to the game late, slap some off the shelf components together, and run it with some generic OS are in for a brutal beating in the market place.

Their stage shows and press releases are always so impressive, complete with chess beating trash talk. And, then they die. Either they die quickly like Palm, or a slow agonizing death like Dell. Actually, the slow agonizing death of Dell has been very profitable for Michael Dell, not so much the "regular" shareholders. But I digress.

If RIM and the others expect to compete and survive (compete and win is a stretch), they need to come with a solid plan, executed with timepiece precision, and drill master discipline that deals with Apple's iPad advantages:

* One click transactions in the global iTunes Store, iBookstore, App Store.
* Over 25,000 iPad optimized apps, and 220,000 iOS iPad compatible apps.
* World class software and hardware engineering.
* Thriving motivated developer community.
* Mature development tools.
* Well managed platform, not fragmented.
* First mover advantage.
* Very well managed supply chain.
* Extremely strong brand.
* Shopping experience that still causes otherwise sensible adults to sleep in the rain overnight to get in.
* ACSI customer satisfaction survey scores that leaves everyone else embarrassingly far behind.
* A rich portfolio of foundational mobile and multitouch patents.
* Steve Jobs.

I'm sure I've missed some, but you get the idea. Tough.

Deon Robinson
Author of 'So You Got An iPad. Now What?'

Posted by: robinsond1 | September 24, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

BlackPad? Hmmmm. Guess they didn't like the sound of "This is a BerryPad Tablet Computer."

I don't know who is going to compete. The Japanese, maybe. Sony could.

Posted by: Bob_Dobbs | September 24, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

You could easily find out what's up with a dedicated Ctrl-Alt-Del key on the side of the thing if you were interested in anything other than repeating Steve Jobs' talking points like a good little brainless zombie flying monkey. You could e.g. look here:

Furthermore, I don't care if IE 8 isn't very touch friendly. I'll be using Chrome with touch extension anyway. I can also replace the whole Windows UI layer with something better if I want to. You can do that sort of things with a real computer, you know? Oh, I guess you don't because you worship a supersized ipod where the only software choice you can make is which fart app to use.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | September 24, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Android based tablets will compete on one thing Apple can't: Price
If you think that is not significant, try this exercise: Would you spend $500 on a tablet for your kindergarten-aged kid? It won't be long before almost all textbooks are tablet based, kids are doing much of their work (Reading, spelling, word study, math, language arts, foreign language, science,...) on a tablet computer. It will offer too many benefits not to. However, knowing how kids behave, lose things, spill, and cause problems, do you think it makes sense to spend $500 on their tablet or $150? That's where the Android based tablets will be inside of a year from now.

Posted by: natecar | September 24, 2010 10:57 PM | Report abuse

To quote the link above:

"This is what happens when a PC hardware company tries to copy an Apple product’s feature checklist without 'getting' it."

Posted by: RepealObamacareNow | September 25, 2010 6:49 AM | Report abuse

I'm waiting for one of these puppies to have workable write-on screens and not just touch. Until then, much as I enjoy playing with my mother's iPad, they're not worth the money to me. I have an iPad Touch, which has fewer features but is pocket size for easier portability, and a laptop with a dedicated graphics card, which does the hi-def thing and is nearly as portable as the iPad. Those will keep me busy for a couple of years until they manage tablets that I can write on as easily as paper.

Posted by: moxilator | September 25, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

I'm so tired of tech authors repeating lame, conventional wisdom. I've been using a Windows XP tablet for years and can't imagine going back to a crippled phone OS like iOS or even Android. All I want is a capacitive touchscreen, multitouch, and a FULL OS. I'm okay with a small performance hit and less battery life, provided they aren't out of line with netbook performance.

The HP Slate looks to be EXACTLY what I've been waiting for. I don't get why HP got gunshy. I can only conclude they've been listening to too many tech authors repeating lame, conventional wisdom.

Posted by: thebigmouth | September 25, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

I suspect the dedicated ctrl+alt+del button is for corporate clients who need to rlogin to a Windows Server system. You need that key combo to bring up the login screen, which makes it a /requiremen/t in corporate spaces. Can't imagine any other reason for it.

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