HP’s Multi-Touch Tablet Prototype – A Glimpse Of The Courier

Steve Ballmer’s keynote presentation at the recently concluded CES was highlighted, albeit very briefly, by the almost-ephemeral introduction and demonstration of the prototype of HP’s rumored touchscreen tablet PC. The tablet, which is purported to be named Courier, will run on Windows 7 and is supposed to hit the market later in 2010.

If you were expecting some display of grandeur at the “unveiling”, you may be sorely disappointed. The HP tablet demonstration, if you can call it that, did not take too long. Rumor even has it that the demonstrated HP tablet during the presentation is not the Courier tablet; rather, it’s a single-screen slate PC that looks very much like any other PC. Of course it runs Windows 7; and from the looks of the video that HP provided, it does have multi-touch feature.

No mention of any specs or other relevant information about the tablet was given by Steve Ballmer, but the announcement ended with the note that we’ll learn more facts on the subject HP tablet later this year.

So now you are left to speculate from what could be glimpse during the keynote. The HP tablet looks to be around 9.6 or 10 inches. It was quite clear when Ballmer showed the HP tablet that he was running the software Amazon’s Kindle for PC, using it as an e-reader.  Ballmer toggled between the portrait mode (as an e-book reader) and landscape mode (to play video); and when he did, it automatically switched orientations; it is fairly reasonable to conclude then that it has a built-in accelerometer.

If you go by the presentation, one may say there’s nothing awfully impressive about the tablet. Mouse-driven interfaces like Windows – or Mac OS X, for that matter – are not known to work too well with touchscreen; then again, it is very likely that it has a lot more features in store that hasn’t been shown yet.  But if past history is anything to trust, and from what was shown on the HP video, there’s a huge possibility that HP will put together something analogous to its Touchsmart software package and there won’t be much difference that could be expected.

The aura of mystery that seems to hover around the still unofficially named HP multi-touch tablet is indeed very intriguing. But what will be more interesting to see is how the marketing campaign will go this time, considering that Apple may well be on its way to launching its own version. It’s highly probable that the competing tablets will be two completely diverse products in style and in made; if the pictures of the dual-screen HP Multi-Touch tablet and the large iPod touch-style tablet, is anything to gauge by.

As for the much-hyped Microsoft “beating Apple to the punch” – connoting that they got to the announcement earlier by a few weeks – a rather tricky detail may have been missed. All reports on the two tablets point to the likelihood that inspite of the intervals in announcements, both tablets will be ready to market at about the same time (first quarter to midyear) and you can expect the real battle to begin then.

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