Asus is trying to do what others so far haven't been able to, which is to knock the iPad off its perch as the most popular tablet PC. Samsung's Galaxy Tab wasn't able to do it, and neither could Motorola's Xoom. RIM's PlayBook held promise, but the lack of email and contacts support for non BlackBerry owners are major omissions. Will the Eee Pad Transformer present the first real challenge to the iPad?
Asus trotted out two tablet prototypes at Computex 2010 in May. One of them featured Windows 7 and the other ran Windows Embedded Compact 7. A couple of months later there were rumors of Asus replacing Windows Embedded Compact 7 with Android. But as it turns out, the company probably never had any plans of replacing Microsoft's OS for ARM-based mobile and embedded devices.
The Taiwanese company actually has a third tablet in the works. According to Asustek Computer's CEO Jerry Shen, Asustek will launch its first Android tablet in March - just after the launch of its Windows-based tablets. Shen spilled more beans while talking to reporters after his company's second quarter earnings call.
The Android tablet will be Asustek's cheapest (if things don't change in the intervening period) as it will cost less than $399. The first tablet to gallop out of the Asus stable, the Windows 7-based Eee Pad EP121, will be priced somewhere around $1,000. It is set to make its debut in December or January. A second tablet will follow in January. Powered by Nvidia’s Tegra 2 SoC (System-on-Chip), the Windows Embedded Compact 7-based EP101TC will cost between $399 and $499.
ASUS introduced the Eee Pad tablet at Computex 2010 in May. The Taiwanese vendor announced a couple of variants: the Windows 7-based Eee Pad EP121 and the Windows Embedded Compact 7-based Eee Pad EP101TC. While its decision to enter the tablet market may have not been much of a surprise, the choice of operating systems was. ASUS had gone against the grain and put all its eggs in the Windows basket.
But announcing a tablet based on the ARM-compatible Windows Embedded Compact 7 platform and launching it are two very different things. According to German site Netbook News, ASUS has decided to replace Windows Embedded with Android as the operating system for its 10-inch EP101TC tablet, which will be powered by Nvidia’s Tegra 2 SoC (System-on-Chip). There has been no official confirmation yet.
While Microsoft's dominance in desktop computing is indubitable, its software has found few takers in the increasingly lucrative mobile and embedded device market. Just as it is planning to turn over a new leaf with its all new Windows Phone 7 operating system, it needs an embedded operating system that can wipe out whatever little recollection people might have of its Windows Embedded CE operating system.
Microsoft does have a successor to Windows CE, and it is called Windows Embedded Compact 7. The Redmond-based company is showcasing many tablets and slates running its latest embedded OS at Computex 2010 in Taipei. It has also released the public community technology preview (CTP) for Windows Embedded Compact 7, which is available online as a trial download.
Many companies are showcasing their upcoming tablets at Computex 2010. The event has shown that tablet makers are not adverse to their tablets or slates running a full featured version of Windows 7, with the recently announced MSI WindPad and ASUS Eee Pad being the most prominent examples. However, Windows 7 is only compatible with x86-based tablets and tablet makers have no choice but to opt for some other operating system – in most cases Android - for such devices.
On the other hand, Windows Embedded Compact 7 can also run on ARM-based devices. So a stellar embedded OS will only enhance Microsoft's chances of success in the tablet market.
Rumors of an ASUS tablet first surfaced during December last year and the Taiwan-based company wasted little time in confirming them. But the internal organs of the Eee Pad still remained a subject of speculation. Today, ASUS put all that speculation to rest when it unveiled the Eee Pad at Computex 2010.
“The ASUS Eee Pad EP121 offers two convenient modes of character input-an embedded virtual keyboard or an innovative hybrid keyboard/docking station design. All of this power is available in a personal computing device that delivers up to 10 hours of usage,” the company announced in a press release.
As for the 10-inch EP101TC, ASUS has opted for Windows Embedded Compact 7 and the Nvidia Tegra 2 platform. Not a lot is known about the EP101TC at this point in time. According to Engadget, ASUS expects the Eee Pad tablets to fit into the $399 to $499 price band. The company also told the popular tech blog that it will only begin shipping the tablet during the first quarter of 2011.
The tablet wars are going to heat up this summer, and Asus will be right there on the battlefield going up against Apple, HP, and everyone else pushing for a 2010 release. For Asus, July is the month to mark on the calendar, which is when the company will release its Eee Pad tablet, according to company chairman Jerry Shih.
Now that the whole world knows what Apple's iPad brings to the fight, Asus has been busy equipping its Eee Pad with a few weapons the company hopes will give it a clear advantage. Chief among them is Nvidia's Tegra 2 chipset, which should open the door to some impressive 3D graphics and gaming.
Asus is also working with Google to weave its Android platform into the Eee Pad. The benefit here is users will have access to an ever-increasing marketplace, which will prove critical in going up against the iPad. The Eee Pad will also include at least one USB port, an integrated webcam, and Adobe Flash support, Shih noted.
No word yet on how much it will cost, but early estimates put the price tag at around $480 to $510 when bundled with telecom carrier services.
Who isn't working on a handheld tablet these days? A week ago you could have said Asus, but if you said that today, you'd be wrong. Maybe.
According to the latest rumor, Asus is preparing to launch its own tablet under its Eee line, which it will call the Eee Pad. There isn't a whole of details to share at this point, but it looks as though the device will come with a 4 to 7 inch panel and offer a combination of tablet PC and MID functions, or at least that's what industry sources are saying. The same sources say Asus' Eee Pad is largely inspired by the rumors of Apple's planned tablet.