After unveiling Windows 7 slates and the webOS-based HP TouchPad, this is the third time to be the charm for HP’s tablet strategy.
The night before Mobile World Congress officially kicks off, the company announced its first Android-running device, the HP Slate 7. The 7-inch tablet runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and weighs just 13 ounces.
With the release of Slate 7, the tech giant is focusing on what it sees as the most promising market: the mid-sized tablet space. HP faces a lot of competition, however, as its new tablet already has such serious rivals as the Kindle Fire HD and the Nexus 7.
HP hopes to challenge those devices by setting an aggressive price point on its device — $169.99 in the U.S. — and by bringing what it dubs a “premium build experience” to its tablet.
HP’s Slate 7 tablet includes Beats Audio speakers, a micro-USB port, a soft-touch rubber back and two cameras (3 megapixel rear, VGA front-facing), Mashable reports.
As far as specs go, the new tablet isn’t the most full-featured tablet in this price range, but it’s believed to be relatively competitive.
Slate 7 features a dual-core ARM Cortex A9 processor clocked to 1.6GHz, 7-inch screen with a resolution of 1024×600, which is lower than the Nexus 7, but about right for devices in this price range.
Reporters asked Alberto Torres, HP’s senior vice president of its Mobility Global Business Unit, whether shoppers will just opt for the faster Nexus 7 or more family friendly Kindle Fire HD for $30 more.
“We are going to have a very strong value proposition with Beats Audio and that the design is far superior than those other tablets that you mention,” he said.
Torres also reminded that HP “wants to be the leader in tablets so to expect other price points.” In other words, a larger, more premium Android Slates in HP’s lineup can appear in the not too distant future.
Some users will be surprised to find out that the device feels more expensive than it actually is. Most sub-$200 tablets have a plastic feel while the Slate 7 does not.
The unveiled device only has 8GB of on-board storage, but it can be increased as Slate 7 has a built-in microSD slot. As for battery life, HP said the device will be good for about five hours of video playback.
HP is very hands-off in its approach to customizing Android. Using the tablet, its owner will get as close to a pure Google experience as the users can outside of the Nexus line. Omar Javaid, HP’s VP of product, revealed to reporters that this was by design.
“We wanted to keep the best parts of Android, and only improve or make tweaks to what we knew we could make better,” Javaid said.
While HP keeps silent about future products, it’s obvious that this isn’t the only Android device the company plans to debut.
Some specialist are already predicting that if HP can put some of its ideas with the Slate 7 into practice with more aggressively specced hardware, the company could make a mark for itself.