HP’s Slate 2: A Windows 7 Tablet for $700

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HP’s Slate 2 is a rare product from an unlikely company. You don’t see many Windows 7 tablets these days, because most hardware makers are presumably waiting for Microsoft’s touch-optimized Windows 8 to launch next year. HP, meanwhile, is still licking its wounds over the failure of its TouchPad tablet, and only recently decided it was holding on to its PC business.

And yet, here we are. The Slate 2 is a $700 followup to the business-centric Windows tablet that HP launched last year. The first Slate was actually supposed to be HP’s answer to the iPad at first, but then the company swallowed up Palm and its WebOS software, and decided to turn the Slate into a business tablet with low sales expectations. Ironically, the Slate survived to see a sequel, while the TouchPad most certainly will not.

(PHOTOS: The First Windows 8 Tablet)

Anyway, here are the specs: 8.9-inch display with 1024-by-600 resolution, Intel Atom Oak Trail Z670 processor, 2GB of DDR RAM, up to 64GB of solid state storage, a 3-megapixel camera in back, a VGA camera up front and a full-sized USB jack. Battery life is boosted to six hours, compared to two hours in the old Slate. HP’s also throwing in a stylus and pre-loading the device with Swype, which predicts the words you want to type as you drag a finger over the software keyboard.

HP says the Slate 2 is intended for “business and vertical markets such as education, healthcare, government and retail, where jobs frequently take users away from a traditional desk.” But I assume anyone will be able to order one of these tablets when it goes on sale later this month.

Still, most users are better off waiting for Windows 8 tablets to launch next year. Although the Slate 2 could support Windows 8, and Microsoft has been testing the original Slate in its labs, there are no guarantees on how well it’ll run, if at all.

MORE: Windows 8: What You Need to Know