HP Slate misses the point

HP and other would-be iPad competitors miss the point when they compare the specs of Windows-based slates to Apple’s iPad as proof that their products are better (see engadget). The elegance, beauty and power of Apple products have less to do with hardware specs than with the user interface and the experience it provides. This is particularly true with the iPad. The iPhone OS 3.2, and now 4.0 feel like they were specifically designed for the iPad emphasizing the benefits of a multi-touch interface while minimizing drawbacks. Marrying OS to hardware is the key to Apple’s recent successes with the iPhone and iPad. Microsoft has failed to do this with Windows Mobile, and with versions of Windows designed for Tablet PCs. Past experience leave me pessimistic about Windows Phone 7, and while I like Windows 7, I wouldn’t want to use it on a slate – even with HP’s “touch-optimized UI.”

That’s not to say there aren’t competitive opportunities for Microsoft, Google and other OS designers. Apple’s increasingly tyrannous governance over software developers provides one opportunity for competitors to exploit.  Secondly, Apple’s deals with big media companies favor businesses over consumers. Apple’s competitors could win over consumers with lower prices and a less expensive, more open architecture. The first step, however, is to offer a compelling OS and user experience that can compete with Apple’s platform. In my opinion, Apple has a big head start in providing users with a “magical” experience. The next step is to make that platform as open as possible without sacrificing quality or the user experience. Apple sacrifices openness for the sake of the user experience – or so they say. Many beleive that it goes way too far.

Consumers should take into account that hardware specs mean little unless the interface provides stability and fluidity. As Irving Mills wrote, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.” Right now Apple is swingin’ like Duke Ellington.

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