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Hewlett-Packard is launching its Windows 7-based tablet computer today in hopes of stemming the tide of demand for Apple’s iPad. From what I saw, I don’t think this is going to make much of a dent in the iPad’s advance.

The new HP Slate 500 Tablet PC is aimed at enterprise users such as executives or mobile workers. With Microsoft’s Windows 7 Professional software, this slate is a full-fledged PC. You can touch the 8.9-inch screen with your finger or use a pen-like stylus instead. But HP didn’t put any touch-oriented interface on the slate, even though it has pretty good TouchSmart user interface.

It’s possible HP may do a consumer-oriented slate with Windows. But the company will also do a full series of devices based on the Palm WebOS operating system in early 2011. HP isn’t talking about those devices yet, but it is selling the Windows 7 device now, as if it were testing the waters for tablet demand.

The decision not to include the TouchSmart user interface, even on an enterprise device, was probably a bad one, since the Windows 7 interface is really meant for mouse-clicking. My finger was too thick to tap the small links on web pages, and I often had to hit the screen a couple of times before it would respond. Carol Hess-Nickels, director of worldwide business notebook marketing at HP’s Personal Systems Group, said that HP decided to let information technology professionals add their own custom shells to make the tablets more customized.

While squishing Windows 7 into a tablet seems awkward, the machine itself is an interesting achievement in cramming a computer into a tablet. It has 2 gigabytes of main memory, an Intel Atom Z540 processor, and 64 gigabytes of solid state memory. It also has a Broadcom video chip that lets the device play back high-definition video. The capacitive multitouch screen has a resolution of 1024 x 600, with a 16 x 9 aspect ratio for HD viewing.

If HP has a good sales pitch, it is that you will be able to do a lot more with this tablet than you can with an iPad. It has buttons on the side for power and volume control. You can plug in a universal serial bus (USB) device, which is something that the iPad doesn’t have. It also has an SD card slot so you can easily transfer videos and pictures into it.

HP is targeting the device at executives and workers in retail, healthcare, insurance, education and the hotel business. It has Microsoft Office on it and the Evernote memory-enhancing application. It also has a virtual private network program that lets workers dial into their corporate computers in a secure fashion.

The device weighs just 1.5 pounds. The screen is made of a strong glass that can withstand rough treatment, and the back has a rubberized and textured pattern. It has a VGA webcam on the front and a 3-megapixel camera on the back. It has Bluetooth and 802.11 b/g/n wireless networking.

HP is selling the device for $799. That includes a black case, a pen, and a dock. Here’s a video demo of the device.


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