HP has announced a new business-orientated tablet that combines enterprise-ready features with a decidedly rugged form factor. In addition to the increased security features and durability, HP is relying on the new Smart Jacket peripherals to set the device apart from the crowd. The ElitePad 900 will run Windows 8 and is set for a January 2013 release date.

The ElitePad 900 takes some design tips from Apple's iPad with its a premium machined aluminum design, and there's a matt black rubber panel along the back and top. It features a 10.1 inch 1280 x 800 IPS display, comes in at 1.5 pounds (680 g) and measures 9.2 mm in thickness.

Crack open the ElitePad 900's casing and you'll find an Atom-based Intel processor, 2 GB RAM and a choice between 32 and 64 GB storage options. The tablet also features an 8 megapixel rear camera and a 1080p front-facing offering for video chat.

A glance at the competition will tell you that these specs aren't anything to get too excited about. Admittedly, the ElitePad is a little lighter than Microsoft's Surface Pro tablet, but there are lighter Windows 8 slates out there, such as the Lenovo ThinkPad 2. The thickness is about on par with Lenovo, Dell and Microsoft's full Windows 8 offerings. The CPU is a mixed bag, offering extended battery life (around 10 hours), but not packing quite the same punch as similar devices running more powerful Core i5 chips.

However, while an initial glance at the spec sheet might make it tempting to relegate the ElitePad to also-ran status, its security features and extra functionality might just make you look twice. Like the tablet's namesake PC line, the ElitePad exhibits military-grade durability and significantly enhanced security features.

The former of these means that the device will easily stand up to occasional drops and scrapes, and is even capable of dealing with extreme temperatures, vibrations and high altitude. On the security side, users get data, device and identity protection in the form of HP Client Security, as well as access to Device Access Manager, Computrace and Sparekey programs.

The other big draw of the device comes in the form of the new HP Smart Jackets, which provide a range of additional functionality. The Productivity version includes an integrated keyboard, extra ports and an SD card reader, while the Expansion Jacket adds USB, SD and HDMI functionality, as well as the option for a secondary battery which promises to nearly double the battery-life of the device. The former of these provides notably similar functionality to Microsoft's TypeCovers, designed for use with its Surface tablet line, though Redmond's solution is perhaps a little more elegant.

Other accessory options include a tablet pen, rugged protection case and a docking station. The dock is the most interesting option here and aims to create a desktop-like experience by providing support for a second monitor, full-sized keyboard an array of extra ports. This significantly improves the functionality of the device and is likely to prove popular with the enterprise market.

Users and corporations that are interested in picking up HP's answer to the Microsoft Surface tablet will have to wait until the January 2013 launch window, and no announcement has yet been made on pricing.

Source: HP