Given its high price tag -- $569 -- the new HP Pro Slate 12 isn't likely to sell in record numbers, particularly to consumers, but it could give Apple's tablets some competition among business users.
HP's best tablet yet
Hewlett-Packard has been offering tablets for years, but is not among the world's top tablet vendors. To date, its offerings have largely been composed of budget Android- and Windows-powered devices sold under its Slate brand, such as the HP Slate 7.
The Pro Slate 12 is powered by Android, but is decidedly high-end, with an 800 series Snapdragon processor, high-resolution screen, and 2GB of RAM. Its defining feature, however, is the stylus included, dubbed the Duet Pen.
The Duet Pen works like any other stylus, but is also capable of capturing text written on standard paper. That might make it more useful to business users, artists, or anyone who prefers to draw or take notes on loose leaf.
The iPad Pro could have one major advantage
Apple has not confirmed its intention to release a larger iPad, but the company is widely expected to do so sometime in the near future. Numerous media outlets and analysts have reported Apple's interest in the product category, and with its increasing push into enterprise, a larger tablet would make strategic sense.
That tablet could compete directly with Hewlett-Packard's Pro Slate 12. It could also feature a stylus. Apple has patented several stylus-related technologies in recent months, and Ming-Chi Kuo -- a fairly reliable Apple analyst -- now believes that the iPad Pro will ship alongside an Apple-made stylus.
If Apple does release a competing tablet, it will have the advantage of an IBM partnership. Apple's deal with the technology giant has already produced a wave of business-oriented iOS apps, and more could be forthcoming.
The Pro Slate 12, in contrast, is limited by its use of Android -- an operating system that dominates globally, but has not meaningfully caught on among business users. According to a report from Good Technology (via VentureBeat), Apple's devices accounted for 69% of enterprise mobile activations last quarter, compared to just 29% for Android.
Big tablets remain unproven
Ultimately, the market for large tablets remains unproven: Although they seem appealing in theory, no company has really managed to make them work.
Samsung released the business-focused Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 early last year. Unfortunately, it has not disclosed exact sales figures, but estimates put the demand for the tablet in the low single-digit millions. Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 has been only modestly more popular, but by Microsoft's own admission, is more of a Windows laptop replacement than a true tablet.
Hewlett-Packard's Pro Slate 12 is an interesting product that should appeal to a particular group of users, but seems unlikely to be a significant driver for the company. Apple's iPad Pro (assuming, of course, that it's actually released) should have a better chance of finding success, but would likely make up a small fraction of iPad demand.
While both devices could bring something new to the category, neither should be seen as particularly important to either company's success.
Sam Mattera has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.