The last few weeks have proven very interesting in the tablet and ultra portable laptop arenas, specifically speaking the announcement of the HP Slate 500 tablet and the release of the new Macbook Air. It definitely seems as though the tablet market and the ultra portable laptop market (I hesitate to use the term netbook here) are moving towards a head on collision as the gap between price points and specs are becoming increasingly narrow.

hp_slate_from_movieAfter doing a bunch of research on the HP slate I have to wonder if it will fly at the current price point of $799. Now before we start comparing the HP Slate to the iPad it must be said that HP is not initially marketing this device as a consumer device but a device optimized for business and enterprise. With that being said, consumers will still look to this device as an alternative and find practical uses for the HP Slate.

I think a more interesting conversation can be made by comparing the HP Slate to the second generation Macbook air, if for no other reason that unlike the iPad, the Macbook Air runs a full operating system as does the HP Slate, where as the iPad runs a mobile operating system, iOS. Not to just shove the iPad aside, but to compare the Slate to Apple’s tablet simply because they are both tablets would be like comparing baseball to basketball simply because both are played with spheres.

Lets take a look at some very basic specs of both the HP Slate and the 11 inch Macbook Air:

HP Slate 500 vs. Macbook Air 2nd Gen Specs

HP Slate 500 Macbook Air
Screen 8.9” LED Backlit 11.6” LED Backlit
Processor 1.86 GHz Intel Atom Z540 1.4 Core 2 Duo
OS Windows 7 Mac OSX 10.6
Storage 64 GB SSD 64 GB SSD
Graphics Card Intel Media Accelerator NVIDIA GeForce 320M
Camera 3MP back Facing VGA front facing Front Facing VGA
Keyboard Virtual Full QWERTY
Price $799 $999

After looking at the very basic specs we can see that the HP Slate and Macbook Air will be in more direct competition than the iPad.

As I ponder value and functionality I am actually torn between which would win in the mass consumer market. I suppose it will really come down to how you will use the device. The problem I see with the HP strategy with the Slate is no matter how you cut it the consumer market will always be comparing it to the iPad simply because it is a tablet and at the entry level price point of $799, regardless of the specs, I’m not sure it will be all that desirable.

116-inch-macbook-airOn the other hand, if you are looking at the HP Slate as a fully functional computer, which in fact it is, you are now competing with the Macbook Air as well as other lower priced windows machines. Based on this way of thinking I wonder if consumers would buy a tablet for $799 when they could buy a Macbook Air for $999 or go the other direction altogether and purchase a Windows based laptop for around $500.

It will be interesting to see where the HP Slate fits into the compact computing market, but I just can’t help but feel that it will get stuck in the purgatory of price points and functionality. If I want a windows machine I can buy a cheap full function laptop for about $500 or a netbook for even less. If I want something a little higher end I can buy a Macbook Air for $200 more and if I want a tablet there is a comparable $699 iPad.

Where do you see the HP Slate fitting in? Will it have to create its own niche or do you see the price point coming down to slot itself in an existing segment? I can’t wait to see where you think this is leading us in the mobile computing arena.