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HP Slate killed? Not so fast

Analysts say that reports of the death of the Hewlett-Packard Windows 7-based tablet may be premature.

Despite glaring headlines last week that the Hewlett-Packard Windows 7-based Slate was canceled, it may not be that cut and dried, according to analysts.

HP Windows 7 Slate canceled? Don't jump to that conclusion yet Hewlett-Packard

In this HP Slate promotional video made back in January, HP VP Phil McKinney says the Slate running Windows 7 is a "real product. It's not a prototype or concept. We're committed to delivering it in 2010." And this relatively long testimonial from Adobe in March says the Windows 7 HP Slate "will be available in the market later this year."

Of course, HP can change its mind. And the acquisition of Palm and the WebOS may give HP pause. But one argument being made is that HP may bring out tablets based on Windows 7 and Palm's WebOS. HP is not averse to bringing out several different models in one product segment, as this San Jose Mercury News article points out. Ezra Gottheil, an analyst at Technology Business Research, said he believes that HP will bring out both a Windows 7 Slate and a product based on Palm's WebOS. "Vendors will experiment to see which ones are a hit," he said, in a phone interview.

"I don't think the Slate has been canceled. This is a delay, if anything," said Ben Bajarin with Creative Strategies. "The question is, will they bring out different products at different price points." HP may opt for a Windows 7 Slate for some segments, while a hypothetical WebOS-based tablet will address others, Bajarin said.

And it's not all upside for Palm's WebOS compared with Windows. "They will try to resuscitate the WebOS to the extent they can," said Ashok Kumar, an analyst at Rodman & Renshaw, who takes a dim view of the Palm acquisition. More broadly, he attributes the delays in tablets that compete with the iPad to a fear that a product that screams me-too is doomed. "That's DOA," he said.

To better understand what HP may do, its Netbook product history is instructive. It was one of the first companies, back in April 2008, to market a Netbook--what HP called the 2133 Mini-Note--using a processor from VIA, not Intel. It ran FreeDOS, SuSE Linux, and the Windows Vista operating systems. Later, HP adopted Intel's Atom processor and added Windows 7 to the mix. But diversification didn't stop there. Its Mobile Thin Clients are another variation on the Netbook theme. And HP also markets a small "convertible tablet" laptop (that runs Windows 7) in the consumer space.

There are plenty of other examples where HP blankets a product category with many distinctly different models, spanning consumer, small business, and large business.

So, the iPad will likely have plenty of competition from HP that not even Apple, in all its market savviness, could anticipate.

HP declined to comment.