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HP's ElitePad 900 now so elite, you've probably not heard of it

Few thousand biz fondleslabs to slip into Blighty

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HP has taken a cautious step back into the world of slab computing: its ElitePad 900 has finally landed in the UK distribution channel albeit in relatively low volumes.

Fewer than 30,000 units of the Windows 8-powered tablets were shipped into Blighty, say industry sources, and it seems the tech giant has yet to convince the wider channel to back the product. The pad has a 10.1in 1280x800 touchscreen with an Intel Atom processor, 2GB of RAM, 64GB of storage and the usual Win8 slab ports.

Pascal Bourguet, HP UK and Ireland channel sales director for Printing & Personal Systems, claimed this is the first tablet aimed squarely at business users.

"We are looking into the potential size of the funnel depending on European and worldwide allocation," he told The Channel.

Bourguet said security, the lack of connectivity ports - LAN, USB and SD storage - and the difficulty in maintaining and fixing machines from rivals has slowed adoption of tablets in large enterprises.

"With this jacket [a dock that adds USB and HDMI ports, the device] can connect easily to laptops and a conventional monitor in a business environment," he said.

HP's last foray into fondleslabs ended with some embarrassment: the TouchPad was discontinued by then CEO Leo Apotheker and only sold in volumes when the price was slashed.

Bourguet said the ElitePad was not "openly available" and HP is prioritising stock for the largest orders, claiming "we don't want a massive volume play that may cause some value erosion".

The hype strategy works for Apple, which has broken into the corporate space through big deals, mostly notably the 8,500 units sold into Barclays, as exclusively revealed last year by The Channel.

The lack of demand for Windows 8 tabs and PCs in Q4 2012 may also have shaped HP's view of the world, as might the availability of touchscreens.

Wholesalers say they are optimistic the product will become a hot seller but there is "not huge pent up demand" at present, said one, so HP may need to market the ElitePad 900 more heavily.

One large channel partner speaking on the condition of anonymity believed that, when widely available, "sale will accelerate".

"The Smart Jacket offers real differentiation for potential vertical solutions. The challenge will be Windows 8 in the enterprise. It is an issue," said the HP top-tier partner. ®

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