At some point, you have to think Acer will become a major player in the emerging tablet market, just as the company blitzed the netbook segment full force. But perhaps wisely, the PC maker has, for the most part, taken a wait-and-see approach.
In the coming months, look for Acer to start selling two or three tablet PCs as it now looks to move beyond netbooks, ComputerWorld reports.
"They are aimed at phasing out netbooks," said Lu Bing-hsian, sales manager at Acer Taiwan. "That's the direction of the market.
Acer isn't ditching the netbook market completely, but will shift its focus to basic models and cut back on the number of shipments. As for the tablets, Acer plans to tap into Intel's Sandy Bridge platform coupled with Google's Android OS. According to Acer, these powerful 10-inch slates will run faster than Windows-based laptops.
Acer got in touch with us to reaffirm that it is not phasing out netbooks, hinting that Lu Bing-hsian may have been misquoted.
"According to recent statement from Sales Manager based in Taiwan, Acer Inc. confirms that the company is not aiming to phase out netbooks in favor of tablets," the company told us. "Mobility, which has always been part of Acer’s DNA, finds a new form of expression in the range of tablets on offer, which feature various display sizes and models designed to fit different kinds of usage scenarios. Acer recognizes that the computer market is changing: As PCs are no longer used to only create content but are more and more becoming consumption tools, new devices and new form factors are appearing. This means the range of devices available to users is getting wider and tablets are just another piece of the mosaic. Therefore they will find their space next to netbooks and notebooks, without taking over."
We can find plenty to fault with Apple's iPad -- no Flash support, no USB port, no cameras, no microSD card slot, and the list goes on -- although performance isn't one of them. Maybe that will change once tablets emerge built around Google's Android 3.0 platform, but by then, we'll be closer to the second generation of iPads, and there's good reason why the competition should be worried.
According to Apple Insider, the iPad 2 will burn rubber with a dual-core SGX543 graphics chip, which offers twice the performance of the SGX535 SoC that's currently in use. Look for OpenCL support to be part of the package, too.
Keeping in mind that this info is based on Apple Insider's un-named sources, there's plenty for Apple fans to get excited about, and for others to be a little worried.
"The most likely configuration of Apple's next custom chip is reportedly the SGX543MP2, which pairs two SGX543 cores to work as one, offering around four times the capability of the previous A4 in graphics and video tasks," Apple Insider said.
That kind of performance boost would be nothing short of impressive and would put the pressure on the competition to keep up. And all that performance won't be used just for gaming, but also for rendering fonts in productivity apps, hardware acceleration, and more.
Whether or not the emerging tablet market will ultimately cannibalize notebook and/or netbook sales has become a hot topic, one that we won't really have an answer to for at least another couple months or so. As it turns out, that isn't the only concern.
Citing "sources from notebook makers," DigiTimes says mainstream laptop panels, including 14-inch to 15-inch models, will compete with tablet PCs for inventory in the second quarter of 2011. This, DigiTimes warns, will cause prices to rise around 10 percent.
It's not just tablets affecting supply, either.
"Due to most mainstream notebook panels being manufactured in panel makers' 5G lines, increasing shipments of tablet PCs and ebook readers, which also use panels from 5G lines, are squeezing supply capacity of mainstream sized notebooks," DigiTimes says.
No need to panic if you're in the market for a notebook. Top tier notebook vendors are aware of the possible shortage, and companies like HP have started building up inventory.
While we couldn't dig up a press release, Fudzilla claims MSI officially launched its WindPad 100W tablet, revealing new details in the process.
MSI's new 10.1-inch slate boasts a 1024x600 multitouch display, an Intel Menlo Z530 processor clocked at 1.6GHz, 2GB of memory (SODIMM), 32GB SSD, 801.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, SD card reader, mini-HDMI output, USB port, headphone in/out ports, both rear- and front-facing webcams, and Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit.
Powering the device is a 2-cell battery, which interestingly MSI only pegs at 6 hours of runtime. If true, that will come as a downer to those expecting iPad-like performance.
MSI is pricing the WindPad 100W at €599 (around $800), at least in Germany. It remains to be seen how much it will fetch in the U.S. market.
There are a handful of tablets out there that can dual-boot Windows 7 and Android. But Evolve III feels dual-boot tablets are still one operating system short of perfection. The Australia-based company, a tablet manufacturer that started out in the digital screen business, has decided to take things in its own hands with its dual core Oak Trail Atom-based Maestro tablet that can boot not one, not two, but three OSes: Windows 7, Android and MeeGo Linux. The 10-inch Maestro features an Intel Atom N475 processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB SSD, Wi-Fi, and 3G. Evolve III hopes to launch the Maestro in the second quarter of 2011. The company has yet to reveal the slate’s price.
There's been a lot of discussion over tablet PCs potentially cannibalizing the netbook market, but what about smartphones? Not to worry, says Research In Motion's VP, Norm Lo, who points out that these are two very different markets.
It seems a silly question to begin with, until you consider that some people rarely make calls on their smartphone, instead using the device mainly for apps. Nevertheless, Lo says tablets will simply complement smartphones, not replace them, though he see slates having an impact on both notebook and netbook sales.
RIM's PlayBook tablet, which is primarily geared towards business users, is slated for release in the second quarter of 2011.
Without Flash support, browser-based gaming has all but been eliminated on Apple's iPad, though not entirely. Thanks to Sarien.net, iPad owners can relive (or discover for the first time) classic adventure games from Sierra, all playable on the iPad's Safari browser and all for free.
Here's what's available:
King's Quest 1-III
Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards
Police Quest: In Pursuit of the Death Angel
Space Quest I-II
The Black Cauldron
The games have been slightly updated to take advantage of the touch interface, and there's even a unique multiplayer element. It's possible to bump into another player wandering the countryside in King's Quest, for example.
Some of the original games' creators have given their stamp of approval to Sarien.net, though Activision has yet to weigh in and probably won't be as thrilled. In other words, enjoy 'em while you can.
Good news for those of you who've held off on getting a slate in hopes that Notion Ink's Adam tablet would start shipping soon. It appears the tablet has cleared the FCC and will "start shipping around Wednesday," Notion Ink's Rohan Shravan announced in a blog post.
If you didn't get to put your pre-order in before, you'll soon have another chance.
"Pre-order 2 has not yet started because we are waiting for deliveries in U.S. and European countries (that would mean that we are just a few days away from it)," Shravan wrote. "But this time we are not going to do the mistakes we did last time. Last time we missed a lot of you, this time we will communicate with a lot of you to make it easier for those who were disappointed last time."
The 10-inch Adam tablet will ship with a customized version of Android 2.2. Other feature include Nvidia's Tegra 2 chipset, front and back cameras, HDMI (with 1080p output), and both Wi-Fi and 3G models. As for Android 3.0 (Honeycomb), Shravan said an upgrade is in the works.
You're probably familiar with W. Clement Stone's advice to "Aim for the moon. If you miss, you may hit a star." Research In Motion (RIM) is certainly aiming high and expects to ship more than 1 million of its upcoming PlayBook tablets in the first quarter of 2011, DigiTimes reports.
That would be enough to surpass the amount of Motorola Xoom tablets, which is expected to be in the neighborhood of 700,00 to 800,000 units. It would also give RIM a great start in competing against Apple's well established iPad, of which all other tablets will inevitably be measured against, not just in features (Apple could very well lose that one), but in shipments and sales figures.
RIM's shipment goal means the company is planning to blitz the market, considering the PlayBook won't launch until March in Wi-Fi form. Sometime after that, a 3G version will follow.
RIM's PlayBook has been the center of criticism over potentially poor battery life. But according to RIM, battery life will be competitive with other tablets on the market.
Intel is having a tough time convincing notebook vendors to adopt its Oak Trail platform for upcoming tablet PCs. As a result, the Santa Clara chip maker has begun pitching offers it hopes OEMs can't refuse, DigiTimes says.
Acer, Asus, and Hewlett-Packard have all showed little to no interest in Oak Trail as a tablet platform, though Intel hopes aggressive price cuts will at least get the latter two on board. As it stands, only Fujitsu, Toshiba, and Samsung have shown any real interest in Oak Trail, though not on a mass production scale.
Intel is offering its Oak Trail platform at a price of around $40, which is about the same cost as Nvidia's Tegra 2, DigiTimes says. Bigger discounts are available for those willing to place bulk orders.
Still, Oak Trail is a tough sell, even at discounted prices. The Tegra 2 platform is a stronger performer, and Intel will launch its new Cedar Trail-M platform for tablets and netbooks in September 2011.