Rumor has it that the Windows 7-based HP Slate tablet PC is dead, but that HP has plans to leverage its purchase of Palm to develop a new WebOS-based tablet currently codenamed "Hurricane". It appears that HP is beginning to understand that the iPad is a unique device and its not about taking a notebook and making it into a flat, touchscreen computer.
There are a variety of tablet-like computing devices in the works. But, assuming that the hardware form factor is similar to the deceased HP Slate, but with WebOS as the platform--here are five reasons that the HP Hurricane tablet will make a formidable competitor for the Apple iPad.
1. Adobe Flash. While Apple continues its public jihad against Adobe Flash--and draws the regulatory scrutiny of the DOJ and the GTC--other platforms such as Android and WebOS are working with Adobe to develop Flash software compatible with their mobile platforms. HTML5 may be the future, but there is no denying that Adobe Flash is a ubiquitous standard regardless of any flaws it might have--real or perceived.
2. Dual Cameras. A tablet device may be a tad bulky or cumbersome to use for taking snapshots, but the option would certainly come in handy. Granted, I can take a picture with my smartphone instead--and through some convoluted combination of tasks manage to get them to the iPad so I can draw moustaches on the photos with Adobe Ideas (see- Apple didn't ban everything Adobe makes from the iPad).
More importantly for mobile business professionals, a front-facing camera allows the tablet to be used for Skype video calls, and other face-to-face video conferencing solutions.
3. Expandability. The iPad is intentionally a closed environment. The lack of USB ports or SD memory card slots fits with the basic culture of the iPad as a Web-enabled mobile media platform, but business professionals need to be able to simply plug in a USB thumb drive and read or copy files.
While not explicitly prescribed, the iPad camera connection kit apparently offers an alternative to enable some USB capabilities, but an HP Hurricane with a USB port and/or SD memory card slot would be a huge advantage.
4. Distribution channels. Then we get down to the nitty gritty. Forget the features of the hardware or the capabilities of the platform. An HP Hurricane tablet can crush an Apple iPad just by virtue of HP's massive global enterprise distribution channels. HP has an existing vendor relationship with most major corporations. As long as HP can demonstrate the benefits and value of the Hurricane tablet it will be able to leverage those relationships to distribute the device en masse.
5. HP brand. Apple has its dedicated and loyal following. I wouldn't dare imply that HP has anywhere near the dedication from its customers. But, as the largest computer manufacturer in the world it does have a respected reputation--especially in the business world where Apple often struggles.
I think it was a wise decision by HP to shift gears from the Windows 7-based Slate to the WebOS-based Hurricane. The tablet--at least the way Apple has envisioned it with the iPad--is a culture shift, not just a new form factor.
HP is in a strong position, though, to combine its brand prowess and understanding of the needs of mobile business professionals, with the WebOS platform, and lessons learned from the iPad, and create a tablet device capable of challenging the iPad, and with an edge on the iPad when it comes to the business professional audience.