Over the past few months, HP quietly teased a tablet in ads and marketing materials. It had the appearance of something sleek and premium. As it turns out, that tablet was the ElitePad: a 10-inch, aluminium-cased Windows 8 tablet that has all the makings of something desirable.
The ElitePad is everything you'd expect a Windows 8 tablet to be on paper. It can run on the new interface or in desktop mode. It feels solid when you pick it up, and the short time I spent fiddling around with it made it seem like a responsive device. And the design -- its curved tapered sides and squared-off top don't feel entirely derivative of Apple's design.
Built on top of Intel's Clover Trail platform, the 1280x800 display strikes a compromise between the mag-friendly-but-video-hostile 4:3 aspect ratio and the slightly too wide 16:9 tablet display. At 9mm and 680g, it's not the lightest or thinnest tablet around (the 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD is thinner and the iPad is lighter), but it's still at the more impressive end of each spectrum.
The 2GB of RAM is on par with other Clover Trail machines, and the option to include up to 64GB of internal storage is nice for a device that's pure tablet. Toss in the 1080p front cam and the 8MP rear cam, and it sounds like a Windows 8 tablet people might actually want.
But here's the catch: HP isn't gearing the thing towards the iPad crowd. Instead, the company said it only plans to sell it through enterprise vendors.
It's understandable that HP doesn't think a Windows 8 tablet might not yet have a shot of competing against the iPads and Kindles and Nexuses, but to not make it available to consumers in some form seems foolish. Aside from a possibly expensive pricetag, the features and design of the ElitePad aren't anymore enterprise than they are consumer. And, more than the convertible tablet, this was the HP Win 8 device that excited me most.
Instead HP will be happy to package a series of enterprise-centric accessories -- cases and sleeves that add ports and battery life and essentially turn the tablet into a laptop -- to try and woo serious businessmen who do serious business on the road. If you are, in fact, some sort of salesman or executive, you might be able to get your hands on one early next year. The rest of us will not be so fortunate. [HP]