Hewlett-Packard may have a very disruptive Android tablet on its hands courtesy of its eStation printer of all things.
Officially, HP isn't in the Android tablet market. Unofficially, HP is going to be a real pain to Dell and its Streak and potentially Samsung's Galaxy Tab.
I got to spend a few minutes with HP's eStation printer---actually it's the 7-inch print console that detaches and doubles as a tablet. A few key nuggets:
HP's eStation console runs on Android 2.1 and will be upgraded to 2.2. That fact makes the whole WebOS equation even more curious. Why did HP buy Palm exactly?
HP's stealth Android tablet gets battery life of 4 to 6 hours.
This "tablet" is connected to the Barnes & Noble e-book store.
The printer/tablet will be available by the holidays.
Yahoo has skinned the console for the most part. Gmail accessible via browser, but the Yahoo integration simplifies things a good bit.
Now there are a few limitations. For starters, HP's tablet/console isn't connected to the Android market, but any good geek can get around that one. And a print button is prominent everywhere. Meanwhile, the HP tablet is a bit clunky in the rear and seems slightly beefy.
But all of that said HP's Android tablet is good enough (assuming HP works out a few responsiveness issues). And since it rides along with a $399 printer it may be pretty damaging to rivals. Why?
HP's tablet is Wi-Fi only, just what some folks want. Samsung's tablet is tethered to the carriers and the data plans for now.
HP is subsidizing its tablet to sell a printer (and the ink that goes with it). It's quite genius. HP doesn't have to negotiate carriers subsidies because ink profits can cut the tablet pricing.
The tablet console is probably about $250 or so if you assume the actual printer part is $150.
In any case, HP's Android tablet works and a bundle with a printer may just move a few of these devices. The device itself had a few hitches---it was a prototype---but you could see your kid playing with it. In fact, you'll have to hunt them down just like you would for the remote.