Why the Microsoft-HP tablet is a big disappointment

The tech world was hoping for a novel device. Instead, we got a tablet computer we've seen before.

Apple must be patting themselves on the back, as the Hewlett-Packard (HP) tablet unveiled by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer on Wednesday night failed to wow those expecting a true competitor to the mythical Apple tablet.

At Microsoft's opening keynote for the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the tech world braced itself for Ballmer unveiling a novel slate form-factor computing device from HP, something to rival the yet unannounced Apple tablet.

Earlier on Wednesday, speculation was revving up for the Microsoft announcement, as it was thought Ballmer would introduce the dual-screen Courier tablet which we got a taste for late last year, after a Gizmodo leak.

However, it turned out that Microsoft didn't manage to beat Apple to the punch and release a breathtaking tablet. What Ballmer unveiled was "something that's almost as portable as a phone and that's as powerful as a PC running Windows 7."

The HP tablet is a basically a color e-reader running Amazon Kindle software, with few other details besides a sub-$500 price point and an estimated arrival on the market by mid-2010. So disappointing was the release that Microsoft and HP's shares fell yesterday according to BusinessWeek.

Microsoft's CEO also briefly showed off two other similar products, one from Archos (which was running a movie, hence focused on multimedia) and a larger-screen slate from Pegatron, for reading newspapers and magazines.

Overall, the three slate devices presented by Ballmer are basically just regular Windows 7 PCs, but in a smaller form factor and lacking a keyboard. Despite an attractive design, there is nothing particularly special about them.

The over-hyped, yet disappointing slate computers presentation from Microsoft leaves way for Apple to surprise the world in late January, as analysts expect a better offering from the Cupertino company. That's unless hype gets the better of them as well.

And finally, here's videoof Steve Ballmer presenting the HP tablets.

For more up-to-the-minute blogs, stories, photos, and video from the nation's largest consumer electronics show, check out PC World's complete coverage of CES 2010.

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Daniel Ionescu

PC World (US online)
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