Hewlett-Packard's announcement of its latest in a long line of tablet computers has generated much more hype than might otherwise be expected. This is, of course, because of the iPad, and the speculation of an HP tablet based on the former Palm WebOS. But in reality, this isn't any of those things.
The HP tablet is really the next evolutionary step in the tablets that HP has been making and selling for years. The biggest difference between the Slate 500 and the previous HP tablets is that this one doesn't have a detachable base with a keyboard. Instead, it has a docking station that lets you attach a USB keyboard and a mouse. As you'd expect from HP's existing line of tablet computers, this one runs Windows, and it uses a digital pen for doing things like taking notes.
Beyond that, what's most remarkable is how unremarkable this tablet is. If you've used HP's previous tablets, then you'll be comfortable with this one. If you're expecting an iPad-like experience, you'll likely be disappointed. While the HP Slate 500 does have a multi-touch screen that lets you do iPad-like things, that's not really the intent behind this device. Instead, this is a Wi-Fi-only Windows PC that supports a touch screen, a camera, a digital pen and some USB and memory card ports.
But in a way, this is exactly as it should be. HP has been selling its tablets to businesses such as health care facilities, insurance offices and other places that need a highly portable computer in a tablet format, and this is a better version of what their customers have already been buying. For HP's current customer base, it's likely the perfect device.
What's also interesting is that like the other non-iPad tablets we've heard about, this device doesn't come with a 3G or 4G wireless capability. It's just Wi-Fi. No word yet on whether the Bluetooth capability will support tethering with a smartphone, but if you want to be able to use this out in the field, your best option is to pick up a smartphone that also works as a Wi-Fi hot spot-like HP's Pre 2, for example.
So all of the speculation is over. HP's tablet isn't going after Apple's market after all. Instead, it's giving its existing market and other business users a nice, apparently well designed, conveniently sized device that will run business software. While it's a Windows 7 device and therefore will support video players and play music, that's not the primary mission.
If you're a business user, this is, in a sense, the tablet for the rest of us.