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HP Challenges Surface Pro with Commercial Windows 10 Tablet

HP Inc., the new PC and printer business that spun off of Hewlett Packard Co. earlier this month, is planning to offer a combined Windows 10-based PC-tablet in January that it believes will appeal to businesses. However, like Microsoft's Surface Pro 4, it may have some limitations for their enterprise environments. The company has taken the wraps off the HP Elite x2 1012 G1, which looks like a Surface Pro by sporting a similar 12-inch display but is completely encased in aviation-grade aluminum, has more interfaces, added security support and a wider array of peripherals. Detailed pricing wasn't released other than the entry price will be $899, which will include a standard keyboard and pen.

Like the most recent Surface Pro modes, the new Elite x2 1012 doesn't have a fan, has a kickstand and is designed to offer 10 hours of battery life (actually Microsoft rates the Surface Pro 4 at 9 hours). In a one-hour meeting in New York this week with Keith Hartsfield, VP of mobility and product management with HP's personal systems group, I had the opportunity to look at the system and it definitely had a more commercial feel without taking on any industrial (aka ruggedized) characteristics. It's thin with a much more solid keyboard also made of aluminum. Actually, HP offers two keyboard options: standard and one that's a hair thicker to support smartcards or NFC.

A fingerprint scanner is on the rear of the device itself and the aluminum kickstand lets you hold the device when used as a pure tablet. The device has two USB ports, one full size USB-A and a USB-C supporting Thunderbolt docking. HP offers multiple docking options: the USB-C-based adapter and a traditional Thunderbolt docking station with its high-end HP Wireless Docking Station, which offers based Wigig where "you get zero latency, dual display kind of functionality," Hartsfield explained.

Other aspects of the new device Hartsfield emphasized is the Elite X2 1012's support for Intel's vPro systems management, HP Client Management Solution and the company's own HP Client Security offering. Also included is HP's SureStart bios, which when a system is corrupted by malware, enables a restore from memory.

One capability that may appeal to many IT pros is the standard screws used on the HP device that lets IT pros open the system to replace the battery, drives or upgrade memory themselves if they choose, or even remove the drive before sending it back for servicing, which is a requirement of many government agencies. The kickstand can withstand 10 lbs. of pressure but if it breaks, it too is connected to the device by screws, making it easy to replace, Hartsfield said.

The Bang & Olufsen audio and multiple microphones with HP's noise cancelling software make the device suitable for Skype for Business or other types of conferencing services. The HP Active Pen, which enables the launch of any app with the push of a button, supports 2,048 pressure points compared with the Surface Pen's 1,024.

While it has a number of features the Surface Pro 4 lacks, many do overlap (both offer TPM and lack fans) and there are some areas the Microsoft offering outshines the new HP device. The Surface Pro 4 has a 12.3-inch 2736x1824 display compared with the Elite 1012 G1's 12-inch 1920x1280 display),   and HP's device weighs 2.72 pounds with the travel keyboard (2.89 pounds with the advanced keyboard) compared with 1.73 lbs. for the Surface Pro 4. Also, the Surface Pro 4 comes available with Core M processors as well as Intel's 6th Generation i5 and I 7 processors with SSDs up to 1TB, while the new HP system only comes with a number of Core M processors and maxes out with a 512GB SSD.

Hartsfield said to expect additional configurations to appear but believes the Core M processor is best suited for a fanless system and to ensure optimal battery life. "Core M is a really great choice. This is for the mobile professional and executives that are using PowerPoint and Office or watching movies on a plane," he said. "This is for the person who is always on the move needing ubiquitous connectivity, and the ability to use a real keyboard and a good mouse experience."

Microsoft's release of the Surface Pro, which HP also now resells, has helped shape the market for tablet PCs, Hartsfield said. "I'm glad they created a category that needed to be created," Hartsfield said. "And I'm glad that they spent the better part of $1 billion marketing it to create awareness. We weren't first but I do think we're best. I think one of the things you'll see from HP Inc. as a new company is we've got our innovation mojo back."

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 11/20/2015 at 8:42 AM


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