The ASUS Eee Pad Transformer, an Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) tablet with a 10.1-inch screen and an optional QWERTY dock, made its U.S. retail debut today, and it’s flying off of store shelves. Amazon and Target appear to have already sold out of initial stock of the unit, and Best Buy’s website currently says that the $400 tablet is backordered, too. ASUS announced the Eee Pad Transformer late last month, and it’s equipped with a dual-core NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor, 1GB of RAM, a 1.2-megapixel camera for video chat, a rear-facing 5-megapixel camera, and it’s rated for up to 9.5 hours of battery life. There’s no word on when U.S. stock will be replenished, although Best Buy’s “ship to store” option says the unit usually ships to the store within 3 to 5 days.
Sony’s hosting a press event in Tokyo today where it just made the first announcement: a pair of Android 3.0 tablets — yes, the very two Honeycomb slabs we told you about exclusively back in February. The first is the Qriocity-focused 9.4-inch S1 media tabletwith both front- and rear-facing cameras and a curved wrap design that resembles a folded magazine.
The S1 features a Tegra 2 SoC and customized “Quick and Smooth” touch panel UI with “Swift” web browser. It can also be used as a remote control for Sony gear thanks to integrated infrared.
The second tablet is the dual-screen S2 clamshell with its pair of 5.5-inch 1,024 x 480 pixel displays, Tegra 2 SoC, and camera. While it sounds bulky, Kunimasa Suzuki just pulled the hinged tablet from his jacket pocket on stage. Sony takes advantage of the two screens with a custom book-style UI layout for its e-reader app, split keyboard and messaging displays for email, and split display and game controllers for PS One gaming. Both the S1 and S2 are PlayStation Certified, support DLNA, and are WiFi and 3G/4G “compatible” according to Sony. See the Sony tablets codenamed “S1” and “S2” in action after the break on their way to a global release in the fall — possibly sooner in the US.
P.S. While the company isn’t ready to talk prices yet, our sources told us back in February that Sony was considering a $599 MSRP on the S1 while the S2 would likely come in at $699. Still no word on the Windows 7 slider but with the other two leaks official, it’s now only a matter of time.
In advance of Google’s Honeycomb deep dive scheduled for this Wednesday February 2, I wanted to do a quick analysis of what Honeycomb means for the tablet market. I’ve been working with a number of the current Android tablets in the 7-inch range and have reached several conclusions about the form factor which I will provide more insight to in a later analysis.
One conclusion, however, that may seem completely obvious but which, from a software standpoint, has not historically been obvious for makers of hardware, is that some form-factors require software created specifically for that form-factor.
This was, to a degree, the observation made by Jeff Hawkins when he started Palm and brought to market the first Palm Pilot. Many of the products competing for handheld computers at the time were mini clamshell devices running either Windows CE or some proprietary OS.
Many of these devices were attempting to be very small versions of their notebook counterparts. Jeff Hawkins’ vision was that computing could take place in the palm of your hand and a new form factor as well as a new operating system was necessary to make that vision a reality.
The same is true in the tablet / touch computing market. These devices are not phones, nor are they clamshell PCs with a physical keyboard and mouse. Smartphone apps are built to work on a small screen. Clamshell notebooks and desktop software were made to work with a mouse and keyboard. This is why, for the tablet market to succeed, it will depend on an operating system and suite of applications that are purpose-built for a larger screen touch computer.
Honeycomb is Android built for tablets from the ground up. Not just the OS but the apps represent optimized versions for the larger touch screen. I pointed this out when the iPad first launched and I’ll point it out again for Android app developers. Apps need to be re-created not re-purposed for Honeycomb. For the Honeycomb software ecosystem to be successful it will require software that is not just optimized but specifically created for larger touch screens. More simply put, develop apps like it was your first app and the 10-inch screen is the only screen.
Nearly every major consumer products vendor I speak with on a regular basis wants a piece of the tablet market. They have very high hopes and to some degree are betting heavily on Android and in this case Honeycomb. We will see if Honeycomb delivers when we get to actually use a functioning version of the OS on Wednesday.
Honeycomb represents a real opportunity for vendors to compete in this space with the 800lb gorilla that is Apple. If Honeycomb does not deliver it could set vendors back again another six to eight months. All will be revealed on Wednesday and we will be there to report it. Check back on Wednesday for my first impressions and analysis of Honeycomb.
Strategy Analytics is reporting today that Android software has boosted its share in tablets almost 10x in the fourth quarter of 2010. Shipments of Android tablets went from 100,000 in the third quarter of 2010 to 2.1 million units, this to be contrasted with Apple‘s jump from 1.9 million tablets in quarter three to 7.3 million in quarter four, all of this in 2010. Android held 22 percent of the global market in tablets the fourth quarter of 2010, up from 2.3 percent the quarter before.
Neil Mawston, director at Strategy Analytics, said the following about the situation: “Apple’s volumes will continue to go up, but market share will inevitably go down. Even at $500 retail [for the iPad], based on some of the research we’ve done, that’s probably two or three times more than what most mass market consumers are expecting to pay. If you were to ask me in two years time, will Apple have less than 50 percent of the global tablet market, I think that’s a certainty.”
In related news, Canalys research group showed Android becoming the world’s best selling smartphone operating system in the fourth quarter of 2010. Take a look at that story [here]
[Via Business Week]