Windows investigate

ASUS steps into the Windows tablet void created by HP

ASUS has officially unveiled its plans for an iPad competitor called the Eee Pad. See what it looks like, learn the specs, and get my take on whether it can compete.

ASUS officially announced its Eee Pad on Monday the Computex Taipei trade show. Calling it a "slate" PC--the term Microsoft uses for touch-based tablets--the Eee Pad will be an Apple iPad competitor and the ones that ASUS showed off at Computex will run Windows.

ASUS describes its Eee Pad as "an ultra-slim and light yet high-performance slate device designed to provide users with a real time cloud computing experience."

The Eee Pad will come in two models:

  • EP121 - This is the flagship Eee Pad. It has a 12-inch screen, runs on Intel's CULV Core 2 Duo processor, runs Windows 7 Home Premium, features an integrated webcam, and has a USB port. ASUS also showed off a a full size keyboard dock that allows you to slide in the Eee Pad and use it like a standard laptop. ASUS claims it will get 10 hours of batter life. The base price will be $499.
  • EP101TC -This is the "lite" version of the Eee Pad, and ASUS didn't reveal quit as many details about this one (the demo unit at Computex was barely functional). It has a 10-inch screen, is powered by the NVIDIA Tegra processor, and runs Windows Embedded Compact 7. The base price will be $399.

ASUS stated that the tablets will be available in the first quarter of 2011.

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In case you missed it, Hewlett-Packard recently killed the Windows 7 tablet that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer showed off on stage at CES 2010. And then, HP bought Palm and admitted that it now plans to use the Palm webOS to run its slate PCs, reportedly because Windows 7 was too much of power hog.

While HP's moves are a major blow to Microsoft, it also opens the door for new hardware makers like Acer, ASUS, and MSI, which have all been gaining momentum with their laptops and netbooks in recent years.

In fact, MSI also unveiled a slate PC called the WindPad 100 at Computex. It has similar specs to the Eee Pad EP121, while adding an HDMI port, and will also cost $499 and arrive before the end of the year.

While the Eee Pad has an aluminum casing like the iPad, the WindPad 100 has plastic casing similar to most laptops. The WindPad 100 has a 10-inch screen like the iPad, while the Eee Pad EP121 has a 12-inch screen. While the iPad has a 768x1024 screen resolution, the WindPad 100 has a 600x1024 resolution.

Sanity check

The Eee Pad announcement offered a few surprises. First was the price. At $400-$500 (Windows obviously piles on an extra fee), it would likely have a tough time competing with the iPad. Sure, the people who won't buy anything from Apple might bite on that, but the masses will not. You can't sell people a Ford for the same price as a Lexus and expect most of them to buy it just because it was made in America. You have to actually build a better product or offer a better value.

Another surprise was the 12-inch screen for the flagship Eee Pad EP121. At 10 inches, the iPad is almost a little too bulky and heavy. Some have argued that a 7- or 8-inch iPad would be lighter and easier to handle, and I admit that I'd like to try something in that form factor. I think 12 inches is going to be too big, and definitely too heavy.

The last surprise was that Eee Pad only runs Windows, and that there's not an Android or Chrome OS version, which was rumored leading up to Computex. It's certainly possible that ASUS will follow up with an announcement of an Eee Pad running Google software. I'd expect a Google powered tablet to cost less, likely in the $300 range, where ASUS could probably sell a ton of these if it built a good product.

I'd be interested to see if the ASUS laptop-docking form factor would make sense. I'm also interested to see if its smaller Windows embedded model can overcome some of the performance and power problems that Windows is likely to face on slate devices. If HP can't make Windows 7 work on a slate (and it has a long history making tablets), then I'm skeptical whether other OEMs can pull it off. The enterprise is more likely to adopt Windows-based slates than iPads, but not if they're slow, clunky, and don't have good battery life.

Of course it's good to see iPad competitors popping up, but the fact that ASUS won't be releasing its Eee Pad for another seven months (or longer) tells me that this product isn't much more than a concept right now. It also says that ASUS saw what Apple did with the iPad and essentially decided to start from scratch with Eee Pad, since it already builds laptops and could take some shortcuts in building a tablet if it wanted to bring something to market more quickly. Hats off to ASUS for starting with a clean slate (pun intended).

But, by the time the Eee Pad arrives, the iPad will have been in the market for nearly a year, and since it is already selling a million per month, that means spotting Apple a big head start.

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About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

26 comments
krzyst0ff
krzyst0ff

the growing number of tablets being promised this year are unsurprising -- (Kindle aside) Apple kicked off a new market segment that could surely kill-off notebooks within a decade, unfortunately for Apple, being first also means that they could be trumped on features/price by every new device following it -- this is likely why the big players such as HP/Compaq/Nokia insist on waiting as long as possible, to learn from the competitions' mistakes. case in point here, the only features that this Asus device draws from the Apple is the minimalist-form factor and the touch-screen -- other than that, its just a cheap, keyboardless notebook. as I see it, there's little long-term market for that, and they are failing on the opportunity offered by a radically simplified, contextual, user-friendly interface that only the iOS and Android appear to offer at present. whilst Windows 7/Azure is a sure-fire marketing label, especially in the (mindless bean-counting) business market, the result is a bogged down, far less usable device that offers none of the benefits that the iPad has over a traditional notebook PC -- why do they bother? the ASUS management is only comfortable with the Microsoft world, and are content to just tack-on the features as needed to rush this to a begging marketplace. the first generation of products from Asus/Dell/Samsung/Toshiba/Sony will inevitably fail with the market evaluation and even when they realise their f***up and follow with an Android device, they will have lost massive market share to Google/HTC/MSI and of course Apple. I for one, plan never to buy another Apple product, iPad included (I need not go into its huge shortcomings such as iTunes-dependency); by the same token, I don't expect to ever buy another portable Windows device -- there is simply no need for it, as none of the applications I must use on my work (Win7) PCs are necessary when I'm on the road, there are so many more efficient, usable alternatives.

startzp
startzp

I like the idea of a windows version of ipad, would even start considering them as computing devices in the 1:1 agenda for students:computers in K-12; however, the keyboard issue for essay answers??? Unless a touch keypad of reasonable size pops up on the screen...The 12" version might be easier fit for High School hands...Separate keyboards- docking stations...come on, kids can't haul all that stuff around in their backpacks and our classrooms do not have the space to store that kind of bulky stuff. Not to mention, budget will not stretch to purchase the extras.

AzWiz
AzWiz

As far as the on screen keyboard, you don't know if it won't have it. I have had Asus products from the UMPC to the EEE-1008H, and I can tell you that minute details and function are their specialty. The UMPC being somewhat small and bulky by todays standards was provided with cables and accessories you won't see on other products.

Slayer_
Slayer_

I mean let's face it, its small, portable, discrete, and you can touch and zoom in... This is the perfect device for browsing pornographic websites... Especially in the bathroom... But those websites have an almost 200% chance of infecting you with plenty of viruses and other malware. So can an iPad and the like get viruses? If they do, then what? Does it have a reset to factory settings button or something?

adornoe
adornoe

This is the perfect device for browsing pornographic websites... Especially in the bathroom... If you take it to the bathroom, your iPad will have a lot of viruses on it, especially considering the purposes which you have in mind for it.

NexS
NexS

I'm sure there would. But the virus and bacteria on the device from taking it to the bathroom can be cleaned with PineO clean and handy wipes

adornoe
adornoe

If I were to step into a computer store looking for a tablet computer, and the only choices available were the Ee-tablet and the iPad, then the Ee-tablet would be the winner of my purchase. So what if it only has a 10 hour battery. With the other capabilities immediately available on the Ee-tablet, it's a no-brainer about which one most people would choose. Too bad it won't be available until early 2011, but I can wait and won't be forking over $600+ for an overpriced/overhyped/underpowered/mostly internet/reading device.

TulitaO
TulitaO

I think it's too expensive and is going to be three quarters too late out of the gate to even begin to compete with the iPad. If Apple has already in TWO months sold two million of the iPads, they'll leave ASUS in the dust. After all, lots of birthdays and Christmas are coming before the Eee-Pad even hits the stores.

SmartAceW0LF
SmartAceW0LF

With all the talk about Apple's big head-start into the tablet game, let's not forget the 10 year lead they had in their original Mac OS. Just think what a fascinatingly competitive world it would be right now had Mr. Jobs paid attention to what the people really want way back then.

sboverie
sboverie

It sounds interesting. The USB port and keyboard docking features make the ASUS tablet more viable than the Ipad's 20 pin connector that would need other cables made to work with it.

azieser
azieser

I agree that a lower price point with Android installed would sell this machine. It would be excellent for presentations, but I am afraid that by the time ASUS releases this unit it will be a bit too late. The IPAD continues on its selling spree and if it can maintain this pace it will have too much of the market share for the competitors to catch up. Still it would be good to see some competitors in this area. However Apple does not ever seem to be concerned with competitors and their presence would do little to lower apples selling point.

Peter_Tan
Peter_Tan

Well ASUS tablet got FLASH.

gmeader
gmeader

With 2 million iPads sold, and many more to be sold this year, websites who want those viewers will dump Flash. The major video sites have already switched to HTML5 video (or are providing both)...

johnpall
johnpall

Apple not allowing Flash is a godsend it's a buggy product and with the current frenzy and large sales of the Ipad the newer tech will take over in the near future it won't happen overnight but it will happen. Who cares if all the bozo's in IT departments would pick a Win 7 Tablet over an Ipad they are a minority compared to the rest of us on planet Earth!

Peter_Tan
Peter_Tan

If Steve says it is buggy then it is buggy? If the rest of us feels it is OK then it is OK for us. Let us have our choice, I am not Steve DOG so I can decide myself. So if you have it now, it is still lacking features that I want so why waste good money on such product. Money is not easy to earn unless you have lots of it, so therefore we would like to save and use our money more properly, thank you.

LBiege
LBiege

With Win7, true multi-tasking and Flash/SilverLight support as the back bone, ASUS tablets are like BMWs and the iFad are Civics at best.

Tommy S.
Tommy S.

But on the other hand Lexus do produce over hyped underpowered overpriced cars... The ASUS tablet is more like an EVO-X to me. A straight to the point performance powerhouse.

SmartAceW0LF
SmartAceW0LF

I am impressed with the quality of their line of notebooks. If the tablet they build comes even close to their notebook line in terms of quality it will be nice to see. As a technician that works on both flavors (Mac also) I feel compelled to add that in comparison there is not now, nor has there ever been a notebook assembled by ANY PC manufacturer that measures up to the engineering put into the Macbook Pro line. (Understandably at a premium price) Please don't take this provocative statement out of context, as my remark is with regards to the physical product more so than anything else. I still have some reservations as to the validity of any claims of OSX superiority. Now, with regard to the iPad, it will be interesting to see what ASUS (or anyone else for that matter) will be able to do in the same pricing scheme.

vballas
vballas

Need to see it. You know this is the difference of Apple. When they go on stage to unveil anything, this finally comes on time, spec and usability as on the demos. Competition cannot somehow manage that. They either flung, overprice or underdevelop the final product. This thing alone says a lot of why many people like Apple. Customer consistency and overall product satisfaction. BR

XXP
XXP

Not once have I seen an Asus netbook that anywhere near the users' expectations. Would love to see a tablet that was affordable and actually worked, but with iPads starting below $500 I'm guessing that a tablet that behaves like Eee is only going to bring squeals of dismay.

jerry
jerry

Depending on capabilities of course. My criteria would be based on (1) weight, (2) at least 6 hrs. of battery time, (3) standard 5-12 volt charger (no brick) to carry around, (4) runs MS Office, (5) runs an IE without limitations, and (5) play HD movies. Yep, a two pound notebook with long battery life and no brick to carry around. If I could find one for under $500 I'd buy it tomorrow.

Slayer_
Slayer_

I want it to use the same charger as my cell phone, camera, video recorder, MP3 player etc...

MCSquaredEqually
MCSquaredEqually

Despite any complaints I may have against the iPad, at least it is tangible. Having seen the HP Slate cancelled, I am hesitant to put stock in any of these concept devices.