Hewlett-Packard seems more determined than ever to flee the Windows reservation, unveiling a $170 Android tablet, the HP Slate 7. The tablet is slated to go on sale in April.
The HP Slate 7 features an ARM dual-core Cortex-A9 1.6GHz processor, front- and rear-facing cameras (3-megapixels in the back, along with a VGA aperture in the front), and an advertised weight of 13 ounces. It runs Google Android 4.1, the first version of the “Jelly Bean” build, which has been ever so slightly outdated by the recent release of Android 4.2.
HP’s announcement doesn’t come as a complete surprise: earlier in February, unnamed sources “familiar with the matter” told ReadWrite that HP was developing a high-end tablet loaded with Android and Nvidia’s Tegra 4 processor.
HP has eyed the tablet market for quite some time. It first tried to break into touch-screens with webOS, a mobile OS built around a Linux kernel, which it acquired during its $1.2 billion takeover of Palm in 2010. Yet the resulting product, the HP TouchPad, proved a failure on the open marketplace, with the company yanking it from store shelves after a mere six weeks in the summer of 2011.
That didn’t kill HP’s interest in the tablet market. It has Windows 8 touch-screens in the pipeline, and now this new Android tablet. Android remains a popular operating system for mobile devices, which—when combined with the bargain price—could make the HP Slate 7 a safer bet for consumer affections than the TouchPad. But the tablet market is also an exceptionally crowded one, which could make it hard for any device to gain traction.
This isn’t the first time in recent memory that HP’s opted for a Google product over one offered by longtime partner Microsoft. As it helpfully pointed out in a press release, HP has produced a Chromebook running Google’s Chrome OS, a largely cloud-dependent operating system for laptops and notebooks. Built around Google services such as Gmail, Chrome OS also offers access to the Chrome Web Store, an online storefront for apps.
If HP and other manufacturers increasingly adopt Google’s offerings over Windows, it could cause some consternation among Microsoft executives. Microsoft, of course, is pushing Windows 8, which is meant to run on tablets and traditional PCs with equal facility. If it wants the Windows division to continue as a cash cow, it needs manufacturers to adopt that operating system in massive numbers. Android and Chrome OS could make that strategy a lot more difficult.