Thankfully, as of tomorrow I won't have to read more nauseating stories about the fact the Apple iPad will be shipping soon, that it will reinvent the media industry, and that it will change the course of human destiny forever. Instead, we'll finally have a real product to evaluate and can start to talk rationally about Apple's invention.
Yes, I know that by Monday the Gizmodos, Engadgets, Cnets, and PC Worlds will be back to running more irresponsible rumors disguised as news on the supposed next version of the iPad; they've already started up again on the iPhone. Sure to surface again will be reports and "reviews" of the iPad-killers allegedly coming down the pipe. We saw a brief flurry of such stories after the iPad was announced, but the noise around the iPad managed to drown them out. Still, they'll be back.
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So let me get that ball rolling on these supposed iPad-killers. Of course, since we don't have a handle yet on what the iPad excels at and fails at, there's no way to know for sure how these will stack up or if they're even really competitors. So consider this a hype-versus-hype myth-buster comparison to figure out how to assess these devices, should they ever ship. And just as I said anyone who pre-ordered an iPad was a fool for buying a product they couldn't possibly know if it met their needs, anyone who pre-orders any of these other devices is a fool for the same reason.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer demoed the HP Slate -- a Windows-based tablet that isn't the standard (failed) pen-based Windows tablet PC but a media player à la the iPad -- at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, and Hewlett-Packard has posted some superficial videos since to help seed the rumor sites. Below is the HP video from its Voodoo blog (the group at HP that does the cool gamer PCs) showing off the slate. (If you can't see the video below, go to this page.)
Keeping in mind that the HP Slate remains vaporware at this point, its primary claim to fame is that it runs Flash videos, which we all know that the iPad and iPhone don't and likely never will. That's very useful to see the videos at many Websites over Wi-Fi connections, as well as to watch training videos and the like offline, so if you're looking for a portable Web viewer, the HP Slate could be interesting. (It's also a Web browser, of course.)