Mon, Jun 06, 2011 - Page 12 News List

FEATURE: Taiwanese use ‘soft power’ to counter iPad

By Jason Tan  /  Staff Reporter

A visitor checks various types of tablet computers at a booth of Taiwan’s Elitegroup Computer System on Wednesday on the second day of the five-day Computex Taipei, Asia’s biggest information technology and communications trade fair.

Photo: PATRICK LIN, AFP

Amid the buzz at the Computex trade fair, Gigabyte Technology Co’s (技嘉) S1080 was lying quietly at the Taipei World Trade Center Hall 1 on Wednesday at noon.

The 10.1-inch slate, running Windows 7 and weighing 895g, was one of many tablets, including those from First International Computer (大眾電腦), Asustek Computer Inc (華碩), HTC Corp (宏達電) and Acer Inc (宏碁).

“This is not a ‘me too’ product,” said Nicholas Kanter, senior specialist for Gigabyte’s global channel marketing.

The S1080 comes with a separate docking that turns the tablet into a multimedia station with speakers and DVD ROM, he said.

With a host of Taiwanese companies jumping onto the tablet bandwagon to counter Apple Inc’s iPad, users are swamped by those “me too” products.

All share similar specifications: either seven or 10-inch touch panels; running Google Inc’s Android or Microsoft Corp’s Windows operating systems (OS); front and rear cameras, and USB ports.

“Apple gadgets swept consumers off their feet because of the great user interface and industrial design. There weren’t many user complaints on these two areas,” Shuttle Inc (浩鑫) general manager David Chen (陳俞) said.

Apple is able to sell its tablets at low cost because unlike Asustek or Acer, which have to buy chips from Intel Corp, or buy processors designed on ARM Holdings PLC’s platform from Qualcomm and Nvidia and to pay royalties to use Windows, Apple designs its own chip and OS, called iOS, and develops its own software from iTunes to App Store.

“No one can compete head-to-head against Apple in terms of cost structure. We need to find a niche in the business model,” Chen said.

Shuttle, a small-form PC maker, began work in software development last year and plans to roll out its first own-brand tablet during the second half, he added.

Over at Nangang Exhibition Hall, Asustek’s Eee Pad Transformer — its first and flagship tablet — was an eye catcher, and staff were bombarded with questions from visitors.

The major attraction for the Transformer — in terms of hardware — is the detachable docking/keyboard combo.

The 10-inch tablet can slot into the docking station and it immediately extends the battery life from 9.5 hours to 16. And users can enjoy a full-fledged notebook experience by typing on the keyboard or making use of the USB slots.

Asustek says the Transformer has to win over users not only with its hardware, but also with software, an area in which Apple is particularly strong.

Asustek has the “@vibe” content store, where it has electronics contents ranging from music, books, magazines and newspapers for consumers — some free and some at a cost.

Launched in 2009, @vibe was originally an added-value feature for its Eee PC netbooks and it has been constantly updating the content store and has integrated the service for the tablets.

The store boasts two new selling points — Netflix video rental and the Press Direct newspaper service.

According to Asustek product manager Mimi Lee (李玉方), Asustek is set to unveil an app from -Netflix Inc, a US flat-rate online video rental service provider, for US users next month.

With Press Direct, it has e--newspapers from 192 countries that are delivered to tablet users at their fingertips every morning. Lee said it has nearly 300 papers from the US alone.

HTC Corp (宏達電), the world’s No. 6 smartphone brand, in March announced it would spend US$10 million to acquire an 11.1 percent stake in the fast-growing online music service provider KKBOX Inc.

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