HP Slate 500 video: please let it be fake

HP Slate video
HP's Slate looks like Yet Another Tablet PC

Have you seen the leaked footage of HP's new Slate yet? Did you think "iPad killer", or did you think "hey, HP! 2001 called, and it wants its technology back!"

I'm being a little unfair here, but only a little. If the prototype in the video is a near-production model, then HP's making the same mistake Microsoft's partners have been making for nearly a decade: it's making a Tablet PC, not a tablet PC.

That capital T is important. Capital-T Tablet PCs have been around for the best part of ten years, and they're a niche product. Small-T tablet PCs, on the other hand, could well be the future of mobile computing.

HP thinks it's making a Small-T tablet. It isn't. Somebody's left the Caps Lock on.

Maybe the whole thing is a fake, or perhaps it's an elaborate marketing stunt, something to distract us while HP prepares a WebOS-based Slate using the OS it got from Palm. I hope so, because what we've got here is an entire PC crammed into a smaller case, a Capital-T Tablet PC.

You can't fault the engineering - the hardware looks great and appears to run quickly - but I'm not so sure about the software. Windows 7 looks far too fiddly on that screen, and that's because desktop apps are - surprise! - designed for desktop PCs. Sure, Windows 7 supports touch, but it wasn't designed as a touch-based OS.

Comedy gift

Apple fans have been quick to jump on the dedicated Ctrl-Alt-Del button - handy for logging in and out, but a comedy gift for anyone who wants to slag off Windows - but they're focusing on the wrong thing. The big problem with the Slate is another button: the keyboard one.

On the Slate, whenever you touch something that needs text input, you have to press a button. A real, physical button. Do you need to press a hardware button to bring up the virtual keyboard on an HTC Desire? On an iPhone? On an iPad? Of course you don't.

That's because those devices - and their operating systems - were made to be touched. Windows wasn't. If it were, that virtual keyboard would pop up whenever you needed it, just like it does on an HTC Desire or Apple's iPad.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think a desktop operating system is the way to go for a Small-T tablet PC. iOS works on the iPad in a way Mac OS X wouldn't, and I'm sure that when Samsung sorts out its comedy pricing the Galaxy Tab will be more compelling than any tablet running full-fat Windows.

That doesn't mean tablets shouldn't run Windows; it's just that they need to run the right Windows, a Windows that's been designed for touch input on mobile devices rather than a desktop Windows with extra pointy bits. That Windows, I think, is Windows Phone, not Windows 7.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.