Laptops

Asus Readies Android-based Eee Pad for March Launch

Asustek Computer plans to launch its first tablet device with Google's Android mobile operating system in March, the company's CEO said Friday.

The Android tablet will be the third in the Eee Pad family and will cost less than US$399, said Jerry Shen, CEO of Asustek, speaking to reporters after the company's second quarter earnings conference.

Apple's iPad, by comparison, costs $499 for the version with the least amount of storage. Companies have been scrambling to put out rivals to the iPad after seeing its popularity rocket since its launch.

Asustek currently has a team of over 800 software engineers working on Android but mostly for their smartphone division. Some of those engineers will be transferred to the tablet product division, Shen said.

He declined to comment further on the device.

Asustek will launch its first tablet device in December or January, a 12-inch touchscreen tablet that will cost around US$1,000, Shen said.

What makes the device more expensive than, say, the iPad, is that it comes with a docking station that transforms it into a laptop computer.

"If you want to compete with the iPad, you have to do more than just be less expensive," Shen said. "You have to offer more features. We want to spend more time perfecting the [Eee Pad] before we launch. We're looking more at Q1 to launch the devices."

The device, officially called the Eee Pad EP121, has Microsoft's Windows 7 Home Premium operating system and an Intel Core 2 Duo processor inside.

Asustek also plans to launch a second Eee Pad in January, a tablet with a 10-inch touchscreen that does not include a docking station. It uses processing cores from Arm inside and runs Microsoft's Windows Embedded Compact 7 software. It will cost between US$399 and US$499.

The 12-inch and 10-inch touchscreen Eee Pads were first displayed by Asustek at Computex in June.

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