Asus, MSI Tablets Lead the Charge Against the iPad

Apple is set to face some competition as Taiwanese-based PC makers get their iPad challengers ready. Companies such as Asus and MSI are showing Android- and Windows-based tablets that they say will be cheaper than the iPad.

At the ongoing Computex trade show in Taipei, Taiwan, Asus announced its first tablet, called the ‘Eee Pad.’

The Eee Pad has a 12-inch touchscreen display and is a “full-featured slate computer that serves as a multimedia player, e-reader, compact PC and internet device,” says the company. The Eee Pad has an Intel Core 2 Duo processor and Windows 7 operating system. The company is also offering a 10-inch display version of the Eee Pad.

Asus rival MSI is offering two tablets of its own: One featuring the Windows 7 operating system and the other powered by Google’s Android OS. The tablets, called ‘Wind-Pad‘ have 10-inch screens, 2 GB of RAM and 1.6 GHz Atom processor. The tablets will offer 3G and Wi-Fi capability. Both the tablets are expected to be available in the third quarter of the year.

“We understand that people are only willing to pay less than $500 for a tablet,” Andy Tung, vice-president of sales for MSI told Wired.com. “And because the OS is one of the biggest costs in the device, our Android tablet will be at least 20 percent cheaper than the Windows version.”

Seperately, Korean company Yukyung Tech has demoed an Android tablet under the brand name ‘Viliv’ that has a 10-inch capacitive touchscreen and claims to beat the iPad in terms of display quality. The Viliv X10 tablet has an ARM-based processor, USB port, SD card reader, Wi-Fi and 3G capability. The company hasn’t offered detailed specs or pricing for the device.

MSI ‘Wind-Pad’ Tablet

Apple’s iPad has jumpstarted the tablets category. Since it went on sale in April, at least 2 million iPads have been sold, Apple says. Not surprisingly, other PC makers have taken notice of the demand and the hype.

Dell has said its 5-inch Android tablet will go on sale in the U.K. starting June 4. The Dell Streak will be free on a $36 (£25) a month data contract with O2, or you’ll be able to buy it outright for $630 (£429).

Consumers that buy these new crop of tablets will consider factors such as mobility and applications, says Tung.

“If you are looking at netbook-like super-mobility then a Windows device will be important because you will want to do more than just surf with the tablet,” says Tung. “But if you just want a portable web device, then Android is a better choice.”

At a time when HP has reportedly given up on its Windows-powered Slate in favor of a Palm webOS-based tablet, the arrival of Windows-based tablets should be good news for Microsoft and its fans.

But Microsoft’s vision for a tablet could fall short of consumer expectations, says Michael Cherry, vice-president of research for operating systems at independent research firm Directions on Microsoft.

“Microsoft’s vision for tablet is as an extension of the laptop family, so things you can do on a tablet is same as what you can do on a PC,” he says. “But the downside is the battery life doesn’t last beyond four hours and the device boots slowly–both of which are becoming negative attributes.”

Tung says that MSI has extended the battery life on its tablets to up to eight hours.

Ultimately, he says, flexibility and options is what will drive tablet sales.

“Apple has a very strong app store, which helps the iPad. But there are enough Windows and Android based apps out there to make our tablets attractive to consumers,” says Tung.

Photos: (Masaru Kamikawa/Flickr)

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