HP readies its Slate tablet. And Microsoft. And Sony -

The Wall Street Journal reports that HP is going to discuss prices and features on its tablet device called the Slate.

It's talked to people "familiar with the matter" who say that the Slate will have similar features to the iPad, will come with a cellular connection, and will sell at below the price Apple will charge.

The same report says that Microsoft has a team of people at its lab called Alchemy Ventures in Seattle working on tablet technology with two screens and code named Courier. Sony is also toying with the idea of a tablet too.

Microsoft never gives up on the idea of a PC tablet - back at the turn of the century, Bill Gates predicted it was the shape of things to come. It didn't.  Other manufacturers in the PC industry are also watching the tablet market with some anticipation.

But this isn't the first time the PC industry has looked at what Apple is doing with more than a fair bit of jealousy. Uncharitably, you could say that have copied Apple's ideas to no great purpose.

When Apple launched the iMac, a host of vendors brought out designs that mimicked the transparent look of Apple's machines, but they really missed the point - the point being that they were just copycats. If people want a stylish looking bit of kit, they don't want a knock off - they'd want the original. I've even seen people old enough to know better trying to hide the Dell label on their notebooks by sticking on an Apple logo. It's pathetic.

The HP Slate may be a perfectly functional device but it won't come with a keyboard and I'm pretty sure that it's not going to sell like hot cakes. The WinTel side of the industry is littered with vendors bringing out devices that nobody wants, and nobody needs.

Although the vendors cheep endlessly about innovation, it's all a bit me-too. Apple is leading and has led the PC industry and you can't take that away from Steve Jobs and his Cupertino company.

The Wall Street Journal article is here.