Windows 7 tablets: a good idea?

Back in May there was a flurry of (still unconfirmed) news that HP was dropping the Windows 7 version of the HP Slate and moving to a WebOS-based device. At the time I said it made sense since Windows 7 on tablet hardware was never going to be fast enough to give a good experience.

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It may be time to eat my words, if news coming out of Computex is any indication. I'm watching the show from afar, but there seem to be a good number of tablets running Windows 7 on display there. Unfortunately most of them aren't actually working yet, but Engadget's Johanna Sterns got some time with the ExoPC, which was running and, at least from the brief video we saw, running well. I'll embed that video below. So let's take it on faith that companies can make Windows 7-based tablets that work well. The next question is, should they? A tablet is a tablet, not a traditional computer. My experience, at least with the iPad, is that a tablet is something you use during leisure time, and not a business tool. Perhaps a Windows 7 tablet could change that, but I'm not so sure. Outside of specific verticals with specific software needs (health care is one that's often mentioned) the physical limitations of a tablet (primarily the lack of a keyboard) severely impact its use as a traditional computer. By the time you set a tablet in a stand, add a keyboard and maybe a mouse, you may as well be using a laptop. I still think Apple's App Store is key to the success of the iPad. Being able to browse apps (or music, movies or books) in one spot, easily install (or uninstall) content via a button press and never having to worry about file directories or uninstallers leaving stray registry entries or malware slowing the system down: these 'ease of use/peace of mind' issues are a big part of what make the iPad so relaxing and fun to use. I think "fun" is an essential part of a tablet's appeal, at least for the mass market. An Android tablet could offer these same advantages. A Windows 7 tablet couldn't. I do think the first company to come out with a nicely-performing Windows 7 tablet will sell a good number of units. But I also think the people who buy them will ultimately be disappointed with the tablet experience. Of course I was apparently wrong about Windows 7 tablet performance; perhaps I'm wrong again. What do you think? Could a Windows 7 tablet enjoy the sort of success the iPad is currently enjoying?

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