Edward C. Baig, USA TODAY
Hewlett-Packard hasn't exactly distinguished itself with tablets. In 2011, its TouchPad tablet - based on Palm's generally well-received but ill-fated webOS operating system-lasted a shorter time on the market than Kim Kardashian's wedding to Brooklyn Net player Kris Humphries. Years before, HP sold early Windows-based tablets, none that became iPad-like blockbusters.
These days, HP is backing Windows 8 with the ElitePad tablets and the convertible Envy x2, a PC with a removable slate. And now HP is going the Android route. At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the company introduced the Slate 7, its maiden Android tablet. The $169, 13-ounce slate is coming to the U.S. in April.
Slate 7 has a 7-inch display with a modest (judging by the 1024 by 600 resolution) display, similar to the original Kindle Fire, which seems to be a direct competitive target among entry level models. Unlike the camera-free first Fire, Slate 7 has two cameras, a rear 3-megapixel camera and a VGA front camera. The tablet runs the Jelly Bean 4.1 flavor of Android, and has a dual-core ARM processor, and 8 gigabytes of memory, expandable via microSD. HP says the tablet battery will go about 5 hours, which if so is nothing to write home about.
Among the Slate 7 features are embedded Beats Audio, which HP claims is an industry first for tablets. Slate 7 also has direct printing capabilities. Built around a stainless steel frame, the initial models-you can get it in red or gray-are Wi-Fi only.
HP is clearly going after consumers with the Slate 7, while the Windows-based ElitePad is more suited for business. HP senior vice president Alberto Torres told me the company "will have a very aggressive plan to cover the market with a variety of distinctive products."
Whether any of these pose much of a threat to the iPad is very much an open question.