HP late Wednesday refreshed its lone remaining tablet through the Slate 2. The Windows 7 hardware keeps the same outside form with an 8.9-inch, 1024x600 display but trades up from the 2009-era Atom of the original Slate 500 to a modern 1.66GHz Atom Z670 from the Oak Trail family. The upgrade theoretically nets it six hours of actual battery life versus the original's claimed five and often much less.
Other improvements are a mix of hardware and software. HP's tablet should be more responsive and portable with a faster 64GB micro SSD, an optional Bluetooth keyboard dock, and TPM to help lock it down when on a corporate network. Swype's keyboard is making one of its first appearances on the desktop and potentially helps thumb typing.
Price is another core ingredient for the Slate 2. It ships later in November for $699, a full hundred dollars less than its ancestor.
The modest update parallels the fall of the Slate 500 from its one-time role at HP. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer initially championed the slate as a preemptive iPad competitor, focusing on home features and arguing that customers would want a full Windows tablet even before Apple's real plans were known. HP initially went along with this angle and publicly attacked the iPad, but it later changed its mind and chose to buy Palm for what would eventually lead to the TouchPad. After this and the iPad's strong sales performance, the PC builder quietly repositioned the Slate 500 as a business device and began treating it like most Windows tablets are sold so far, as a specialized tool for field workers.
HP only plans to recommit to tablets as mainstream products with Windows 8. The OS, due mid-2012 or later, is Microsoft's first desktop OS genuinely optimized for touch and will give HP the option of using ARM processors to get more iPad-like battery life.