HP Slate and MS Courier, The Second Coming of the Tablet PC

In the last few weeks new details have emerged about upcoming contenders vying for the market the iPad is expected to create. 

Videos, screenshots, and details of Microsoft’s Courier have  appeared on Engadget, and reveal the device to be a brilliantly innovative book-like digital journal running a form of Windows Mobile 7 and arriving in Q3 or Q4.  But  the information comes not from Microsoft, but from a “trusted source”, so there’s good reason to doubt the final product will match the cleverness shown in these videos; I can’t remember the last time I saw a product from Microsoft which I would call innovative (the word derivitive is the one I expect to use for their products).  One of the most surprising things for me about the Courier as alleged is the focus on the digital journal centric design.  It certainly differentiates the device from the other players in the field which stress no particular application or use (aside from the ubiquitous browsing or reading apps).  This could be key to its success or demise, despite the fact that it will no doubt also run apps of every other description as well; the device wouldn’t be limited by design, only by the limits people read into it.   This journaling direction isn’t completely new to the Tablet PC versions of the Windows OS which have long had a primitive but good journal app, but if this truly does deliver on the features shown, it just may be worthy of being a central feature of the OS and device.

The HP Slate also got some press this week, debuting in some videos released by HP.  In form, the Slate is akin to the iPad, but certainly larger than the foldable Courier, but what sets the Slate apart from both is that it runs a full desktop OS, Windows 7; that is a good and a bad thing.  Included in the good is that every Windows app will run on it, that it will be more easily integrated into (and therefore greeted by) conservative business environments, and that for all users the full web means the full web (every last glorious and icky part of it).  Chief among the negatives of a full OS, it’ll never be as elegant to use (since both OS and apps are not going to be exclusively designed for that form factor), the battery life will never be quite as good, it’ll always run somewhat hotter, and it’ll never squeeze the best performance out of whatever cpu is inside it; my last three points hinging on the fact that a full OS will always be more bloated in ram, disk, and cpu cycles required to support the services, features, and other “stuff” necessary to accommodate an entire back catalog of Windows applications.

If the HP Slate or the Windows Courier (as described) both appeared on the market tomorrow at a sensible price I’d probably buy ‘em both (but not the iPad), perhaps one won’t preclude the other.  The Courier might become the digital journal I carry with me everywhere, which can be my RDP connection to full computers when/where I need them.  And perhaps the Slate would replace my Tablet PC as my mobile ideating and writing computer, for the apps like MindJet’s Mind Manager, MS Visio, MS Word, web for blogging, etc. (with bluetooth keyboard/mouse).

It’s times like these I wish I had a time machine…

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