Windows 7 Slate: On Track For Enterprise.

There’s a phenomena that many of us IT folks deal with every day but not many outside our industry know about. It goes by many different names but the most apt one is what I refer to as the Qantas Club factor. You see whilst it’s all well and good to develop solid technology that provides tangible benefits to business it really doesn’t help if it doesn’t get any visibility with higher ups (or decision makers as the vendors call them). The one sure fire place to find an executive or someone who can sway the decision making process is the various flight clubs and lounges that they frequent whilst jet setting around the world. Any technology that is either present there or in the literature available to them is almost guaranteed to find its way into that decision maker’s organisation.

My own personal experience with this was Blackberrys. One of the top executives had been on a recent jaunt overseas with a couple of his peers from other organisations. Before they were boarding the flight they were all discussing their various exploits when the other two pulled out their Blackberrys. Feeling quite inadequate that he didn’t have one his own the executive put a request down the line to trial the Blackberrys within our organisation and no less than 2 weeks later we had 10 of them running rampant in our environment.

Now I wouldn’t of cared that much since Blackberrys do enable some people to be more productive than they could be otherwise and I’ll never turn down new kit. However we’d already been trialling our own solution (Exchange ActiveSync) that was not only free but would also run on a wide range of handsets, something that was deemed critical as part of the email on phones solution they wanted us to develop. Still the Qantas Club factor was enough for them to overrule all their previous decisions and push forward with a solution that, whilst completely functional, showed a complete disregard for any kind of practicality or reasoned thought.

The same can be said for the iPad. When it was released I lamented it’s limited ability and took a torchto the speculation that it would be a revolution in the online media space. I still stand by those comments as whilst it has been a unabashed success the revolutions it was meant to spur haven’t even begun to show their heads yet. It has however managed to change the landscape of consumer PCs devices effectively creating a new market segment, much like the netbooks did before it. Consequently many manufacturers are playing catch up to try and corner one part of this market and one of those has the Qantas Club factor executives squarely in its sites.

The product is the Windows 7 Slate from HP.

Now back when it was announced the Slate had your typical Microsoft vapourware flavour to it. They’re often guilty of announcing a product, usually with specs that border on the edge of reality, that will never see the light of day. It’s done to scare would be competitors out of the market and unfortunately has a track record of working. When the iPad was a runaway success that couldn’t be killed by this kind of grandstanding many people thought that HP had killed the slate completely, opting instead to acquire Palmand create an iPad competitor based on their WebOS software. This was all but confirmed when HP registered the trademark PalmPad as there didn’t seem to be any reason to release 2 competing platforms.

As it turns out though instead of pulling one in favour of the other they were in fact working on rebranding the device as a enterprise appliance

We’ve sensed that something‘s been up with the HP Slate for a while now, and it looks like we’ve finally gotten the first solid confirmation that the Windows 7 tablet as unveiled by Steve Ballmer at CES in January won’t hit the consumer market as planned — speaking at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference, HP Personal Systems Group VP Todd Bradley just said that the Slate will be “more customer-specific than broadly deployed,” and that it would launch the Microsoft-based tablet “for the enterprise” in the fall. That fits right in with HP telling us the other day that it was in “customer evaluations” as it prepared for the “next steps,”and based on followup comments from Bradley and Palm head Jon Rubinstein, it certainly sounded like the company will focus Windows tablets at the enterprise and develop a variety of webOS devices for the consumer market.

Enterprise in this sense means it will more than likely be running either a fully fledged Windows 7 OS or a Windows 7 Compactinstall in order to support all enterprise functions (compliance, software deployment, etc.). Additionally I wouldn’t expect it to be a consumption focused device like the iPad purely because in the enterprise there’s not a great need for a casual computing device that fits that need. I can see them becoming the next execu-toy to have filling in a requirement that didn’t exist before the product became available.

That puts it firmly out of the league of the iPad, for better and for worse. Realistically there’s little to no justification for having an iPad in the enterprise as they’re solely focused on the consumer with no integration with traditional enterprise applications. This is by design and follows the trend that Steve Jobs follows. Apple has never been that big in the enterprise and never will be with Steve Jobs at the helm as he prefers to focus on consumers at the cost of other applications. That’s not a bad thing either as he’s shown that Apple can be quite a successful consumer electronics company and it looks like other companies are starting to take notice.

Does this mean I’ll be buying one? Probably not as it fits into the same requirements model that is aptly filled by a laptop, which I’m currently in the process of buying. It appears though that the demandfor a Microsoft alternative to the iPad is strong but unless you’re willing to shell out enterprise level dollars for it (read: probably double the iPad) it will be firmly out of your reach. There are wide range of alternatives of course, including the all but confirmed PalmPad, but none of them have drawn the attention that the HP Slate did when it was first announced.

I’m sure I’ll get to have a good play with one of them when one of the executives catches his friend using one before their next trip 😉

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