HP Slate 500 for the Enterprise

This week we’ve had a HP Slate 500 to try out and see how we like it for Staff and Students. Since the release of the iPad we’ve been under pressure from all and sundry to purchase some and put them around the school, especially in the junior years. The iPad’s consumer focus makes it a nightmare on the network, and the concessions that a systems administrator has to make between device permissions, network authentication, wireless security makes them a high maintenance device. We’ve been looking forward to the Slate 500 for some time, knowing that Windows 7 Pro will work perfectly on the network, and hoping that it will be an equivalent device to the iPad, and what it may lack in style, is certainly made up for in substance.

While I’ve been happy with the Slate 500 there have been a few disappointments. Only having one USB port on the device is limiting. There’s been a few time already where I’ve wanted to attach combinations of an external keyboard, mouse, memory stick and ipod, and have had to find the dock which has another two USB ports. Adding one more USB port to the device would make a huge difference.

The onscreen keyboard in Windows 7 could be better too. Having an option to remove the row of numbers and punctuation keys to make it similar to the iOS keyboard would allow for the keys to be larger and the keyboard to occupy less real estate on the screen. The onscreen keyboard can be resized but when reduced to a reasonable size the keys are unfit for the ham fisted.

It’s also disappointing that software on Windows 7 isn’t touch friendly. If I had a Slate 500 I’d hit IE9 and a PDF reader fairly hard and so far, it’s been a mediocre experience. The advantage that iOS apps relying on touch makes them typically touch friendly. The only exception being a horse racing app that I had for about 5 minutes that looked like it was made for Windows 3.1, which was fairly amazing. It’s probably safe to assume that as more Windows based tablets appear the OS and software will gradually catch up and become touch and gesture friendly….

Anticipating a purchase of Slate 500 devices, we would want to image and control the devices through Altiris. Neither the device nor dock are equipped with an ethernet port, however, the HP USB Ethernet Adapter may PXE boot for Altiris according to Rick on the tabletpcreview.com forums.

The Slate 500 is essentially the same performance wise as the 5101/5103 netbooks that we’ve been using for the students, with a slight smaller LCD and screen resolution. The battery life supposedly is up to 5hrs, but I haven’t had the chance to confirm.

It seems that we’ll certainly get a handful and put them in the hands of teachers, students and executive staff to see how they compare to our fleet of netbooks and tablets, and whether they are a worthy replacement, or an additional tool.

I’d like to see an app for Windows Slate machines where the slate can act as a second screen for a PC/notebook. Then when I’m working on my tablet, I can find the information on the web that I need, flick that browser window to the slate. Then I can read instructions and work on my tablet without having to Alt-tab. That would be superb.