Move Over Samsung, Asus Is The Tablet Golden Child

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When Apple launched the first iPad, it breathed life into a category that was presumed dead. As it quickly gained a large portion of the market, rivalling manufacturers scurried to design and produce their own tablet iteration, but Asus was the only company to truly innovate upon the form.

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The original Transformer might have been heavy and expensive, but it was innovative.

The first Transformer was an Android running tablet that would mount into a keyboard dock; the addition of which catered to consumers who wanted the mobility of a tablet without sacrificing the practicality of a notebook. To this market, the iPad proved inferior, and that’s a feat few companies have managed to achieve.

Even then, some companies could only do so by imitating the iPad. Apple is still arguing in courtrooms around the world that Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 is a ‘slavish imitation’ of the Apple iPad. In Australia, the 4 month debacle fuelled a media-frenzy and helped position Samsung’s tablet as the biggest threat to the iPad, ultimately giving it some credibility. But with every day that passed, the spec sheet of the 10.1 appeared less and less impressive.

In the shadows of this affair, Asus was working on its follow up to the original Transformer. With the successor, the company wanted to make a splash. They managed to do so by producing the Transformer Prime: the first tablet to feature a quad core processor and to run the new version of Android, (Ice Cream Sandwich). The combination of an unprecedented tablet processor and a newer version of Google’s operating system positioned the Transformer Prime as a performance tablet not to be reckoned with.

 

The recipe resonated with consumers as the IDC reports Asus’ share in the tablet market grew by 115.5% in the second quarter of 2012, making it one of the fastest growing tablet companies.  

By this time the maker of Android, Google, was looking for a company to build its Nexus tablet. The Nexus moniker denotes a pure version of Android that is free from carrier and manufacturer bloatware. It is also the first product to get the latest version of Android, and the company collaborating with Google would be privy to an advantage over its Android rivals by familiarising themselves with the software’s inner-workings. Previously Google had entrusted Samsung to develop two Nexus smartphones with great success, but the Transformer Prime convinced them Asus was the right company for the job.

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Born from the relationship between Google and Asus is the Nexus 7: a tablet that features the same quad core processor as the Prime, albeit in a 7 inch body. Although its feature-set is common to rivalling flagship tablets, it has a low $249 price tag.

“We’re not making a loss, but there is very little margin in it,” an Asus spokesperson confirmed to Smarthouse.

Research firm UBM TechInsights did the maths on the Nexus’ components and, according to its US sales price, determined the company is making just $15 profit per tablet. In comparison, the similarly priced (and yet inferior) Kindle Fire generates $46 profit per tablet.

 

Google might be reaping all of the glory for the Nexus 7, but Asus is gaining something for its efforts. Asus’ product manager, Anson Zhang, told Smarthouse Asus was rewarded with brand prestige.

“The Nexus brings us to another level of brand image. Every vendor will know Asus is the best in tablets.”

The Nexus 7 will also give Asus an audience. Whereas the company’s Transformer tablets cater to the few after a high end tablet, the Nexus 7 will be purchased by the masses that are after an inexpensive solution.

The inside scoop on Jelly Bean will also give the company an advantage when it comes to releasing updates for its existing range of tablets.

“Jelly Bean will definitely be available,” said Zhang. “Our tablets are all powered by Tegra 3 Quad core CPUs. For Jelly Bean, that’s perfect.”

Zhang appeared to enjoy puns, claiming this year is the “year of Transformation for Asus.”

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Click to enlarge
Asus’ Infinity Pad is their latest Transformer. It tops the market on specs with a Full HD screen and a 1.6GHz Quad Core Processor
 

Although Android is gaining momentum, it still only accounts for a small stake in the tablet market. In order to increase their share, Zhang revealed Asus will be releasing a Windows 8 version similar to its latest Transformer in Australia; however, he choose not to specify if they’ll be releasing a Windows RT (ARM powered) or Windows 8 Pro (Intel powered) tablet.

“Windows 8 will be out October 26th and they’ll probably be around that period,” he said with a smile.

Last year Samsung might have been the company to watch in the tablet market, but the limelight of its litigation with Apple has faded, leaving only the imitable 10.1. It’s now Asus, with their Quad-core, unique form and software savvy tabs to be the thorn in Apple’s tablet-dominating thigh. 

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