HP Slate7

HP to launch cheap tablet for students

HP are to release a $99 7-inch tablet in the US, according to a report that has emerged out of Taiwan. The American company is set to target the student market with its new device, that will likely be powered by an Intel Medfield processor.

As is the case with the Hisense Sero 7 Pro that Android Wafer covered a couple of days ago, the tablet will be exclusive to Walmart.

The report, carried by DIGITIMES, makes no mention of the tablet’s operating system, but it is inconceivable that anything other than Android would be used. HP has sold its webOS division to LG, meaning that Android is the only operating system suitable.

Whilst the likes of Ubuntu or Firefox OS could – in theory, at least – be used to power a 7-inch tablet, neither product is polished enough to be a justifiable choice. And the $99 price tag suggests that HP do not intend to spend big and help develop a new platform.

The new budget HP tablet is set to be manufactured by BYD Electronic International. The Chinese company already makes the Slate7 for HP, a dual-core, 7-inch tablet.

After the well-loved – but commercially unsuccessful – HP TouchPad, the Slate7 marked HP’s return to the tablet market. For this reason, it provoked a degree of initial excitement and interest, but this quickly died down following a series of lukewarm reviews.

Although not a terrible device, the Slate7 didn’t perform well enough to justify its $169.99 headline price. However, this has been recently reduced to a more affordable $139.99.

There is a sense that what we are seeing with HP’s current Android tablet strategy is the company placing its well-respected brand on cheap imports from China. Not that there is necessarily anything wrong with that – some Chinese tablets offer great value for money.

The fact is, though, the Slate7 was something of a disappointment. Therefore, any future products from a HP-BYD partnership will attract a sensible level of caution.

With desktop PCs and laptops, we have seen the student market used as an excuse to promote budget devices with low-end specs. Often it is not students – who tend to be tech-savvy – that buy this type of product, anyway.

It is worth remembering that whilst your average student may be operating on a somewhat limited budget, they have little interest in obsolete technology.

All this is not to say that a new, cheap tablet from HP won’t find a market. A decent amount of RAM to minimise lagging, as well as care taken to optimise Android for the x86 processor platform, and HP could have a respectable performer on its hands.

There will be a certain attraction to a budget $99 tablet, readily available from a discount department store. Such a proposition could well tempt some to dip a toe into the tablet market for the first time.

As of yet, there has been no confirmation of the device from HP. Therefore, UK – or wider European – availability and pricing is something of an unknown.

If the proposed tablet does make its way to European shores, then it is unlikely to be sold for much less than £89/€103, based on what we have seen with the Slate7.

Although the Slate7 is currently selling for $139.99 in the US, in mainland Europe the official HP website charges €149, whilst HP’s UK site charges £129.