Sheer genius or sheer idiocy? (If you’ve been reading this blog for more than a few days, you can probably guess what the answer is…)
HP has announced the impending release (come September) of what I can only describe as a 21 inch Android tablet.
They’re calling it the “Slate 21”, and they’re pitching it as a combination of a multimedia station and a desktop computer. The specs are–except for the size–similar to the current crop of high-end Android phones: 1920×1080 screen, Tegra 4 processor, 8GB of storage (expandable via SD card), and so on. The price is similar, too: $399.
We need a name for this class of objects–somewhere between tablet and computer–I’ll propose “comlet” by analogy with “phablet” for something between a phone and a tablet, but I’m open to suggestions. This isn’t the first attempt to merge the two categories, but the previous attempts I’m aware of are essentially notebook/tablet combinations; this is the first I’ve seen that tries to do the trick with a desktop.
What makes it a desktop computer? According to HP, the addition of office software from KingSoft, enhanced drivers to allow the use of USB keyboards and USB hard drives, and the ability to print (if you have one of HP’s web-enabled printers).
What makes it a multimedia box? DTS sound and the ability to use standard wall mounts. (The puff piece linked in the previous paragraph also cites Wi-Fi Direct and BT 3.0, but I’m not clear how connectivity options qualify as multimedia features.)
I think this screams “novelty item”. It’s too big to lug around the house so your videos and music can move around with you – and that’s assuming it includes a battery: if it has to be plugged in, you might as well use the wall-mount option and leave it in… um… some room. It’s too small for the typical living room or bedroom, where you generally are sitting on the other side of the room. It might work in an office–21 inch monitors are reasonably common–but does anyone really want to sit in their office chair and watch a movie?
As for its utility as a desktop computer, I find it telling that the HP piece states that Splashtop2 will be pre-installed on the gadget. Splashtop is remote-access software, so you could use your comlet to work remotely on your PC or Mac from the comfort of your… um… office chair: right in front of the computer.
Yeah, OK, I can think of some niche uses for it. I could see it being useful in a dorm room or small apartment (though even there, you would get more flexibility with a low-end laptop and a small TV for about the same price).
This is one of those “Thank you for thinking outside the box, but…” ideas. I commend HP for trying something new, but unless they can come up with a more compelling purpose than “it’s never been done before”, I can’t see it catching on.
Now, if they built the same technology into a range of TVs–something that would work in a living room–they might have something worthwhile. Android makes a nice streaming media box, and building the ability to play videos and games on a truly giant screen, in the same way that DVD and Blu-Ray players have been built into TVs has some appeal. It looks like HP was thinking along those lines. Their promo piece does say “When you’re playing games, for example, imagine that you’re playing something like Angry Birds on a gian screen.” But 21 inches is only “giant” by comparison with a 5 inch phone; not what most people picture when they hear the word.