Google’s Nexus 7 tablet was, at the time of its release, a technological marvel for its price. It’s still a marvel, in fact. Where else are you going to find a 7-inch tablet with a decent resolution (1280 x 800), a powerful processor (Tegra 3 quad-core), and stock Android, all for a price of $199? The closest competitor in terms of specs is Amazon’s 7-inch Kindle Fire HD, and because that device runs a heavily-modified version of Android built around the Amazon ecosystem, the drawbacks are fairy visible.
That’s why I can’t seem to wrap my head around all of the fuss being made over HP’s first entry into the Android tablet space, the HP Slate 7.
There are two types of tablet buyers: the ones who are willing to drop $500+ on the iPad, and the ones who aren’t. For those who aren’t willing to hand half a grand over to Apple, the Nexus 7 offers premium tablet specs at a $300 discount. When you dip below that $200 mark, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you’re not going to find anything as good as the Nexus 7. Google is selling the device without worrying about profits. Think about that for a second, and then ask yourself: what company in its right mind would try to undercut a device that doesn’t make money?
The price of the HP Slate 7? $169. Oh boy.
And it’s not like HP masterfully manipulated its supply lines and cut deals to create a device on the Nexus 7’s level at a lower price. Quite the contrary. The Slate 7 is behind the Nexus 7 on almost every technical specification, save for the rear-facing shooter that is absent on Google’s tablet. The Slate 7’s screen resolution is 1024 x 600 — or, the same as a netbook from 2008 — and its dual-core processor doesn’t stack up well against the quad-core Tegra 3 found in the Nexus 7. Add the fact that Nexus devices run the latest stock Android release and the Slate 7 will run some slightly-modified version of Android 4.1, and you might suddenly have the urge to spend that extra $30.
Plus, you have to consider HP’s track record with Android devices, or lack thereof. The company has no experience putting out an Android firmware update for any of its devices because it’s never done it before. Have fun waiting for that new Android version all your Nexus friends have while HP is adding a bunch of apps you don’t want to its update.
I hate to see any company flounder, especially one as important to technology’s history as HP. But the company is not doing itself any favors by jumping into the cheap tablet market. Google and Amazon are already firmly planted there with pretty solid devices, and undercutting them with less-valuable products isn’t good for HP’s image or its bottom line. If the company really wants to make a splash in the Android tablet space, it should focus on knocking Samsung from its perch between the $400 and $500 price points with a powerful, premium, innovative tablet. Not a “me too” product, but one that really blows people away.
HP is supposedly working on a premium tablet, due later this year. Let’s hope it’s better than the company’s first effort.