Leaked HP Slate Video Shows the Trouble With Windows 7 Tablets

By  |  Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 9:51 am

A YouTube user apparently got hold of HP’s Windows 7 slate, and while leaked videos like these are usually cause for geek salivation, this one was like a car wreck. I just couldn’t look away from the disaster.

If this is the real deal, it quickly illustrates why Windows 7 tablets are bad news: HP’s slate has a control-alt-delete button. Let that roll around for a minute. Because the keyboard is part of the software, and the software is prone to lock-ups, you need a button dedicated to saving the slate from doom. I can only imagine how awful the control-alt-delete button would play out in stores, which might explain why HP is targeting the Windows slate at businesses. Those chumps will settle for anything if it’s secure!

It gets worse. Shortly after firing up the device (a 30-second process), the demonstrator tries to show off Internet Explorer. “Let’s do a little bit of scrolling,” he says, dragging a finger across the browser window. Except, the window doesn’t scroll. An icon pops up, evidently used to open a new tab. Now, the demonstrator’s fumbling around. He opened the new tab by accident. Now he’s trying to close it. The computer lags behind his commands. This is hard to watch.

Just when you don’t think the supposed HP slate can look any less attractive, the demonstrator decides to show the on-screen keyboard. But it doesn’t automatically open when you click on a text field, as seen on the iPad, the Galaxy Tab and any smartphone that doesn’t have physical keys. No, on HP’s Windows slate, you must reach to the side of the device and hit a hardware button to pop up the keyboard. And when you’re done typing, you’ve got to hit that button again to stow the keyboard away.

Of course, some counter-points apply: The demonstrator didn’t remove the slate’s protective film, which probably made the touch screen less responsive. Control-alt-delete, despite its association with crashes and shutdowns, has other uses like logging off, locking the computer and switching passwords. And above all, this is a prototype — or fake — so HP deserves a little slack.

But all those little disasters add up to a larger point, that the Windows slate still seems like a laptop cut in half, not a tablet built for fingers and fast access. It needs extra hardware to make up for software shortcomings, but doesn’t offer anything new in exchange. Why bother?

Update: Re-reading this, I think it makes sense to apply an ounce of skepticism to the source, even if the video is convincing. I’ve made some slight tweaks to the story to reflect that.


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22 Comments For This Post

  1. Vulpine Says:

    And yet there are commenters on other blog sites that swear that Windows7 on a tablet is the only true tablet OS–that only a full-featured desktop OS will make a tablet truly functional. *sigh*

  2. steveymacjr Says:

    for an example of a great Windows 7 based slate, check out the EXOPC slate..
    here is a youtube video of the UI: http://youtu.be/QKjTJ31q1UY

  3. Vulpine Says:

    I don't know if you could call it 'great', stevey; it's from a startup that nobody knows, uses an Atom processor, so is hardly more capable than most netbook PCs and quite honestly still has the one major drawback that all Windows-based tablets have had for ten years–effectively no commercial software designed to run on a touch-based system.

    That said, the price looks good, though with only 2GB RAM that's not going to help its speed any. Flash support also looks weak since the majority of Flash and Java apps need a pointer, something that's not really available on most touch-screen devices. Then again, using Windows as the core OS, you're using a pointer-based operating system with an upgraded touch UI and some custom-built apps by EXO PC to help.

    I have to question how well it will really perform compared to the other Windows tablets over the years, but it should at least be somewhat competitive with the iPad. On the other hand, if they can't get third-party application support, it'll probably do just as well as all those others.

  4. David Says:

    And remember. That 30 second start up is with nothing installed. All the hype is about how you can run anything. First, get out that anti-virus. Then, start putting office, firefox, all manner of stuff and watch how long it boots and how quickly it runs.


  5. David Hamilton Says:

    That video eloquently makes the case that the software for touch-screen devices needs to be designed for touch from the ground up. You just cannot take an existing OS and Apps, add touch input and a blue touch indicator and have a device that people find intuitive and that they want to use.

    The other point is that much application software designed for desktops will be unusable due to the small size of many screen layouts and controls, but we didn't even get to see that.

    Microsoft seem to be in denial of all of this.

  6. ediedi Says:

    WIndows 7 on a tablet needs a pen.

  7. Subetai Says:

    Erm, the Iphone/Ipod touch takes a bit longer to cold boot than the Slate, why is that not a problem for the tech press? I'm sure resume is going to be less than 5 seconds.

    The Slate actually IMHO looks quite awesome and far from "fail". The N-Trig Pen brings it into an entirely different category of OneNote-taking, Pdf-Annotating, Engineering-Sketchbooking, Adobe-Photoshoping (or the GIMP) greatness.

  8. Vulpine Says:

    You say, "I'm sure resume is going to be less than 5 seconds," but you express merely an opinion, not a documented fact. Resume, by the way, would not be a cold boot, but rather a 'wake from sleep' which the iPad does in less than one second and I'm sure Android devices are just as quick.

    As far as it goes, I don't argue the usefulness of a stylus of some sort, but not so long as it becomes a requirement for use rather than an accessory item. If it becomes a requirement for accurate functionality, the mere misplacing or total loss of the stylus would make the device nothing more than a paperweight until the stylus is replaced.

    Full Windows, on a tablet, will remain a total waste of time and resources until touch computing becomes the norm rather than the exception.

  9. Subetai Says:

    Well my 5 five old laptop resumes in less time, and the Slate has an SSD. You may have never seen this, but Android and iOS products also cold boot. If you hold down the power button for more than a few seconds the device shuts down completely. It takes longer for my Ipod Touch to come back from this state than my laptop. And, btw, I almost never cold boot my laptop.

    Setting the DPI to 125% in Windows makes it quite usable as a touch interface. Perhaps not as fluid an interface as the Ipad, but definitely usable. The only reason tablet/slate type windows devices haven't taken off is the cost (although they have taken off in the vertical market). A TC1100 a few years ago was a $2000.00+ device and had pen-only input.

    Full Windows, multi-touch+pen is a tablet prerequisite for a large number of people. I'm sure Windows 8 or a 7 SP will revamp the UI somewhat – but even until then, the Slate, Asus EP121 etc are more compelling for a segment of the market than the Ipad.

  10. Vulpine Says:

    As I said before, Subetai, Resume is not a Cold Boot. In fact, it's merely a 'wake from hibernate' state' which, while quicker than a cold boot, doesn't reset the RAM or clear any data corruption which may have occurred while the machine was in use previously, things like memory leaks that won't clear even after quitting out of an application. Sometimes, no matter what the platform is, a cold boot is necessary to restore performance.

    I will repeat that Windows itself, even the 'Touch' versions, is not ready for everyday tablet use–not because it's not capable, but because there are no touch-centric applications on the open market for it. The applications are decidedly pointer-based which means a mouse or stylus is absolutely necessary to run them. A very obvious example would be any of the Flash-based apps and web pages that rely on the pointer hovering over a tab or button to expand the menu. Flash 10.1 is still proving that it is incapable of stable function on tablets and smart phones. Add to this that the majority of Windows-based tablets are still grossly overpriced (I acknowledge that there are some less expensive models out there) and you simply won't, yet, see the software support an OS needs to be viable in the tablet/mobility field.

    Finally, the idea of a touch-only environment is centered around mobility. Multi-touch means that you can perform every function without the need to carry around a whole briefcase full of peripheral devices such as stylii, USB add-ons, memory cards and other geegaws. Mobility implies simplicity and in all honesty Windows is anything BUT simplicity. I will say the same thing for the full version of OSX as well. They're not designed for mobility, they're designed for power–to give you the full desktop experience. Tablets are go-between devices designed to work in conjunction with a desktop or a laptop where convenience is more important than power. Quite honestly, the tablet is what the NetBook wanted to be. Almost nobody imagined a NetBook replacing a desktop; why do they now feel the tablet is intended to do so?

  11. Subetai Says:

    Is an Ipad really a mobile device in that sense? I concede your points when talking about a phone, but a tablet is intermediary. You *are* going to have some kind of a moleskin type case for your tablet. You *will* have some sort of pen garage.

    You said:
    "As far as it goes, I don't argue the usefulness of a stylus of some sort, but not so long as it becomes a requirement for use rather than an accessory item. If it becomes a requirement for accurate functionality . . "

    Can you have the pixel perfect accuracy of a mouse using just your fingers? I don't believe this is possible. Finger painting as on the Ipad is acceptable for media consumption, but is far too crude for anything else.

    You have to admit that a touch-only interface is a trade-off between the convenience of a one piece device and the accuracy you absolutely need when selecting data from a dense information set as in a spreadsheet.

    A tablet form factor is interesting for a number of reasons. As I sit here I have tons of notepads with sketches, jotted-down info etc arrayed around me. If nothing else a tablet pulls all of this into one place, and it does so in a device that is far lighter and compacter than a convertible. I can carry it with me to a customer, stand on the factory floor take photos, annotate them etc, all while standing. If the only two programs running would be Chrome and OneNote I would be satisfied. Simplicity is a red herring. I want Power. I want to write macros etc.

    The ipad and Windows tablets will have no problem coexisting, because while there is overlap, the focus is different. I can see a slate-type unit as ubiquitous at meetings. It lays flat, doesn't interrupt sight lines between participants and acts as a upgrade for the paper notepad. Plus you can doodle. You can't doodle on an ipad.

  12. Vulpine Says:

    A good argument; well thought out. Allow me to offer a couple examples:

    Here's a man who creates a painted portrait of his subject using nothing but an iPad:

    Here's a portrait of Beyonce done on an iPad by a different artist: http://www.kylelambert.co.uk/ipad/beyonce/video.h

    Do you think these paintings could have been done if the iPad wasn't accurate enough using just the fingers?

    That said, I will agree that the radio buttons you currently see on many web pages are tiny and difficult to hit accurately on an iPhone or iPod Touch, but a simple reverse pinch zooms it large enough for accurate marking and the iPad's display is easily large enough to touch the button you want in almost every case. That 'Pixel Perfect' accuracy is a legacy of mousing and quite honestly even there it can be too small for the average user. I've experienced many cases where even on a 24" screen with a 1000dpi gaming mouse, I had extreme difficulty clicking a specific point I needed because the software demanded that 'pixel perfect' placement. I'm sorry, but a) that's not efficient and b) it's not user friendly. Quite honestly you don't need that kind of accuracy even in a large, dense spreadsheet when all you need to do is click the cell to bring up the entry on the input line.

    In other words, about the only time a stylus should be necessary is when you're wanting to sign your signature to a document or you want to hand-write some quick notes. Touch should be able to replace every 'pointer' function.

    Oh, and you can definitely doodle on an iPad.

  13. Subetai Says:

    I disagree with an imprecise capacitive stylus ie "sausage" being able to replace an a digitizer capable of mouse over and left and right click. I'm sure you can draw on the Ipad, but like pinch to zoom on a windows device, it's clunky and an afterthought.

    Quickly and efficiently manipulating large amounts of data excludes zooming techniques. Zooming is a crutch necessitated by a finger only interface on a tiny screen. When working with a spreadsheet you can select cells, highlight portions of cells, resize cells, select multiple cells. You can only perform these actions in a mobile platform at any reasonable speed using a pen.

    Pinch to zoom is simply too awkward and time consuming to be part of every act of selection on a tablet device.

    If you think the Ipad interface metaphors are flexible enough for every use more power to you. I and I think quite a few others think the pen should be primary and touch in a secondary supporting role, especially when the device is being used for creative purposes. I'm sure the market will cater to both viewpoints.

  14. Subetai Says:

    I can definitely see uses for tablets . . . are you restricting "tablet" to mean a locked down device like an Ipad?

    I use a Wacom pen instead of a mouse on my work PC, so I have some experience with the usability and usefulness of pen input. I have also used a Ipad at a friend's, and I am aware of how great the thing is for certain things. I still maintain that pen based computing has a place, and in certain use cases is essential in the tablet space. This is especially as tablets get faster CPUs and more memory. They used to say the same things about laptops vs desktops, that they are meant to supplement etc. This didn't turn out to be true.

  15. Vulpine Says:

    I still question the logic of your 'need' since I know you're not using that Wacom pen on your screen, but rather as a pointer on that pad. I, too, use a Wacom pen on my pad when doing detailed editing of a photograph on my desktop computer. However, would I really need to if my screen were down where the pad is now? Again, I can see uses, but I don't see where those uses in any way have to be mandatory for a touch-screen computer to be viable.

    You see, I do try to envision the future of technology, and honestly we've already seen that for hand-held devices, a stylus was more a handicap than a help. Why else would the most popular smart phones now on the market ignore one? Why, if a smart phone can operate effectively without a stylus, should a larger tablet form factor require one?

    I'm also saying that someday in the future touch technology will be the standard, not the exception. Keyboards will still have their place as an IO device, but for the majority of work a physical pointing device will be totally redundant and unnecessary, though other IO devices to represent different weapons or controls for gaming might see an upsurge. How would you like to play World of Warcraft or Dungeons and Dragons Online without a mouse, just pointing at your target to attack and touching the shortcut bar for special attacks and powers? To me that'd be a lot easier and take a lot of strain off my right wrist. Even a simple Bluetooth joystick could replace the mouse/keyboard for movement control and get put aside when you need to be productive without having to physically connect/disconnect it.

    Again, I can see where a pen device may be useful, but I don't see any scenario where it needs to be mandatory.

  16. Jeff Lewis Says:

    Vulpine, you're off on a number of issues.

    First off, there are *three* boot modes with Windows: cold start (which takes the longest time, not surprisingly – and is the one in the video), hibernate (which has the memory and CPU state written to the HD/SSD and has to be loaded up – faster, but still slower than…), sleep (which leaves everything as is, but suspends the CPU and basically just bumps the memory every few hundred nanosecs to keep it alive. Win7 also has a 'hybrid' mode where the device essentially does a hiberation setup, but then goes into sleep. That way, should the device fail to wake up or something happen to the battery, it will still recover to exactly where it was.

    Win7 typically comes up from sleep within 2 seconds – this even holds up on the 800MHz Steely based Samsung Q1-U. The Slate is essentially the same as any Atom N450 based netbook (although it's SSD based while most netbooks are HD based) and there's no good reason why it won't perform around the same. Hibernation depends on the drive and how much memory the device has – but with my 2GB netbooks, we're talking 15s or less.

  17. Jeff Lewis Says:

    What's annoying about this criticism is that no one seems to realise that devices like the iPad and iPhone are almost never booted. They don't even go entirely into sleep. But for yocks, I just powered down my iPhone 3G and did a cold boot – 45 seconds from the moment the Apple logo appeared to when the 'slide to unlock' screen came up. LONGER than the Slate.

    As someone who actually *does* draw illustrations on a tablet, I'll put it simply: you're wrong. Yes, you can use an iPad to draw (heck I know someone who does some of the most amazing work on a Nintendo DS) but that's a little like arguing that since you can use a spoon to till a field, you don't need a tiller, or that because you can mow a lawn with scissors you don't need a lawnmower. Technically true – but not really very realistic. I've drawn on iPads, and it's 'good enough' but it takes more effort and it leans to a specific style. If you're a line-artist – it's just awful.

  18. Jeff Lewis Says:

    The myth of capacitive screens being more accurate than resistive screens or pens is pervasive but is just that – a myth. Capacitive screens are better at guessing where the center point of your finger's pressure area – resistive screens can't do that which is why they need a stylus – but that's a point *under* your finger – which means you're drawing under your finger… it's almost impossible to be precise that way. Most artists who use iPads tend to be 'area' painters – they work by pushing around blocks of colour and blending – but typically don't use line drawing techniques, which is one of the most common techniques.

    The capacitive screen is much better for hitting a large button (another thing that gets missed in the comparisons – they're comparing a UI with big controls on a capacitive screen to one that has small controls on a resistive or pen screen) but the resistive or pen screen is MUCH better at fine details.

    There's also the issue of writing. Typing on a slate (including the iPad) is clumsy – but writing is pretty easy, especially with Win7's handwriting reco.

  19. Jeff Lewis Says:

    Finally – as a long time Tablet PC user – it amazes me to this day by the 'experts' who are quick to write off Win7 because 'it's not designed for fingers' when in fact the problem is that most touchscreen systems up to now don't have adequate drivers. This reality hit home just this weekend when I updated the Wacom PenEnabled drivers on my Tosh M700 and suddenly got the pan and slide features in Win7. It's amazing the difference this makes. Also, you can do something so mindnumbingly simple to vastly improve Win7's 'fingerability' but just going into desktop config and making the title bar taller (which makes the windows controls larger) and making the scroll bar 24 pixels wide rather than 16.

    Toshiba includes a utility that goes in and reconfigures all the stock UI elements to make them larger… which is essentially what iOS did with the Cocoa Touch controls.

    (Man – this blog is annoying for long comments..)

  20. Vulpine Says:

    Why thank you, Jeff. A good debate relies on thorough descriptions and clarify the points. Just saying something like "This won't work," or "Mine is best" doesn't explain your viewpoint. As such, a longer comment is preferable.

    Tell me. "As a long time Tablet PC user -…" how much touch- or stylus-centric software do you have on that thing. Exactly how often do you use it when you're moving around on your own two feet? What purposes does that Tablet PC serve for you?

  21. LeMel Says:

    Not Jeff, but another long-time tablet user.

    A lot of my business activity is meeting, taking notes and sketching. The tablet form factor is, well, less obtrusive in meetings, as opposed to taping away notes on a tablet. Stylus – I write with pens and pencils. Writing with my finger is crude and inexact and really smudges up the screen over time. Sketching with fingers – same thing. I can make thumbnails in the margins of my notes. I can't get that accuracy with finger painting – I can't see the contact point the line is coming from (and my fingers are not sausages – they're slim).

    OneNote is perfect – it can do a full search of my handwritten notes, including text in imported images, record audio and visual while I am taking notes and can let me hear/see what was happening at the moment I wrote something – great way to jog my memory.

    The thing I don't like about my good old Motion tablet is … no touch. I want both.

    So, to sum up:

    1. People who sketch and write (architects, etc.) as part of their everyday interactions want to use a pen on their device
    2. OneNote is perfect
    3. Touch really is better for general navigation and consuming media (books, etc.)
    4. Cripes, it's 2010. Touch (with hover) + pen. Just invent it already. Whoever gets there first cheaply enough will be rewarded by the market.

  22. Vulpine Says:

    LeMel, I cannot find your response in this column even though I've received a copy in email; I hope you haven't deleted it already.

    I wanted to reply with the fact that I appreciate your listed usage of the Windows tablet and appreciate your arguments pro and con with a stylus. I did state myself that such uses as you describe are easier with a stylus; I only argued that making the device mandatory for use is a limitation–not a benefit. This is one reason why stylus-centric PDAs had effectively disappeared in only 10 years while the mouse, at 25, is still a standard. I also pointed out that as touch-centric computing becomes the new standard, even a mouse will become redundant and useless–far sooner than some people would like to believe.

    However, even with your own description of usage, you limit your 'touch' applications in Windows apparently to only OneNote and one or two drawing apps. My argument emphasized the point that despite being 'tablet ready' for over ten years now, there are almost no touch/stylus applications on the open market for Windows–only Windows mobile apps which–until WinPhone7 comes out next week–were stylus-centric and extremely limited.

    I will also argue that until the iPad, nobody could seem to conceive of any real use for a tablet platform. Now that the iPad is such a huge hit, everybody else is trying to find a way to compete. Apple has set a high bar and both Microsoft and all the Android device builders are going to have to work hard to beat the mind share that Apple has generated. If they manage it, that's all to the good because then Apple will be forced to continue to improve the platform to stay ahead in technology which will in turn force the others to fight for that lead. For us, it's progress that means constantly better products. We've seen what happens when a platform is allowed to stagnate.