Several weeks before Apple is expected to weigh in with a multimedia device with 10-inch touch display, Hewlett-Packard unveiled the prototype of a slate-type computer during Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s evening address at the Consumer Electronics Show here.
The HP device, also touted as a multimedia device with video player, e-reader and multitouch, should be available this year. No name or price were announced.
It’s "a beautiful little product," Ballmer said. He showed a demo of the slate PC running Kindle software for the PC, which made the slate look much like a Kindle but in full color.
Earlier, Lenovo introduced what it claims is the first hybrid PC for consumers with a detachable screen that can function as a multitouch slate tablet or a clamshell laptop.
"We are seeing the next wave of technology — the convergence of the Internet, Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity, and its impact on everything from smartphones to netbooks to slate computers," says Rory Read, president of Lenovo.
Both had better be good, analysts caution, because Apple’s tablet is expected to make a big splash. Apple has declined to comment on its plans.
The new entries should invigorate the middling $950 million U.S. market for tablets, says David Daoud, an analyst at IDC. Sales declined 25% in 2008, and were expected to drop again in 2009. "Apple could do for the tablet market what it did for smartphones with iPhone," Daoud says.
Indeed, Apple could help define a decade-old market interpreted as anything from a large phone to a Kindle or slate device, says Mike Stinson, vice president of marketing at tablet manufacturer Motion Computing.
Ballmer’s second address as Microsoft CEO focused on new PCs, software and product momentum, most of it tied to Windows 7. He said PC sales jumped 50% the week of the Windows 7 launch on Oct. 22. Holiday PC sales surged 50%, year-over-year, largely due to Windows 7, according to market research firm NPD.
Ballmer was joined onstage by Robbie Bach, head of Microsoft’s entertainment division. Project Natal, Microsoft’s controller-free gaming and entertainment system for the Xbox 360, will be ready for the holidays in 2010. It lets gamers play through spoken commands and gestures.