H-P Preps iPad Challenger: Rumor

Apple's iPad is grabbing the headlines, but H-P may be quietly preparing to debut its own tablet device.
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This story has been updated with comment from H-P.

CUPERTINO, Calif. (

TheStreet

) --

Apple's

(AAPL) - Get Report

imminent

iPad

launch is

grabbing the headlines

, but rival

Hewlett-Packard

(HPQ) - Get Report

may be quietly preparing to debut its own tablet, dubbed the Slate.

Spanish technology Web site Clipset insinuates that the Slate will be launched in the U.S. in June, priced at about 400 euros, or $542. The tablet will not make its European debut before September, the site added.

Wired

, however, has speculated that the Slate's price tag could be less than $542, which would challenge Apple's iPad pricing.

Unveiled in a blaze of publicity earlier this year, Apple's iPad pricing starts at $499 for a Wi-Fi-only version of the product. For both Wi-Fi and 3G, iPad prices range from $629 to $829.

"We can't comment on rumors or speculation about any unannounced products," explained an H-P spokeswoman, in an email to

TheStreet

. The tech bellwether, however, has previously stated that the Slate will be available sometime this year.

Analysts are already starting to draw comparisons between the iPad and the Slate, notably H-P's decision to support

Adobe's

(ADBE) - Get Report

Flash technology on its tablet, something that the iPad lacks.

Widely used for multimedia applications such as video, Flash has been touted as a crucial part of the Slate story in

a demo running on the H-P Web site

. The

Wall Street Journal

reported on Friday that some publishers and TV executives are concerned that the

iPad lacks Flash support

.

"It seems odd to close the iPad, a device designed largely for media consumption, to some of the Internet's best-known media sites," wrote Charles King, president of analyst firm Pund-IT, in a recent note. He added that this is unlikely to be a deal breaker. "At the end of the day, by voting with their wallets, consumers and businesses will determine the actual winners in the marketplace."

Certainly, it would be hard to argue that lack of Flash has turned users off the iPad. Recent reports have suggested that

iPad preorders

are going through the roof. One analyst has even

forecast that 1 million or 2 million iPads could be sold

by its April 3 launch date.

It is unlikely that H-P will attract anywhere near this level of hysteria for its Slate launch, although the computer maker can at least count on the support of software giant

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

. The Slate will use the Windows 7 operating system, and

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

has already championed the device in his own inimitable fashion.

Ballmer gave users a sneak peek of the Slate during his keynote at trade show CES earlier this year. "It's almost as portable as a phone and as powerful as a PC running Windows 7," he explained. "It's perfect for reading, surfing the Web."

There has been speculation, however, that H-P may need to tweak the operating system for the Slate given that Windows 7 is primarily a desktop OS.

Apple, for its part, has taken some flak for using a version of its iPhone OS rather than its Mac OS X on the iPad, although this may have been driven by the fact that the iPhone OS is a proven platform for touchscreens. There are rumblings, however, that Apple may add

multi-tasking to the iPhone OS

. Multitasking, or operating multiple applications like messaging, music and Web browser simultaneously, is one of the key features of Mac OS X and iPad users could ultimately access this capability through an enhanced version of the iPhone operating system.

-- Reported by James Rogers in New York

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