Thu, Aug 11, 2011 - Page 12 News List

Asustek hopes to make comeback with the Padfone

BATED BREATH:After its partnership with US-based Garmin Ltd fell through in January, Asustek is keen to bounce back with its tablet-smartphone hybrid

By Jason Tan  /  Staff Reporter

For those eager to play with the Padfone — Asustek Computer Inc’s (華碩) much-touted, upcoming tablet/smartphone combo — the company yesterday shed more light on the product that induced “oohs and aahs” from the crowd at Computex Taipei earlier this year.

Asustek’s goal is to use the gadget to make a comeback in the smartphone industry, where it has been losing out to giants such as Apple Inc, Samsung Electronics Inc and HTC Corp (宏達電). The company also hopes to bounce back after its two-year smartphone partnership with US portable navigation device maker Garmin Ltd fell through in January.

“We are still finding our niche in the smartphone sector,” Alex Sun (孫聰敏), corporate vice president of Asustek’s personal mobile devices business unit, said yesterday on the sidelines of a public function in Taipei.

However, the company decided to move forward with the Padfone, which is a 4.3-inch smartphone that can be inserted into its accompanying tablet’s rear docking unit, powering up the 10-inch panel to enable an enhanced multimedia experience.

According to Sun, it is the smartphone, not the tablet, that will be the highlight of the Padfone. The tablet will only work when the smartphone is inserted into the dock.

If consumers are concerned that they will have to pay the price of one tablet plus one smartphone, they need not fret.

Sun said the Padfone’s price tag would fall around that of an iPhone.

“The prices of the iPhone or the iPad have set the benchmark in the industry ... We need to price our gadgets competitively to attract consumers,” Sun told the Taipei Times.

Despite Asustek’s announcement on May 30, ahead of the May 31-June 4 Computex trade show, that the Padfone would hit retail stores around Christmas time, the company yesterday said the launch date may be postponed until the first quarter of next year.

A separate company source, who is familiar with Asustek’s development of the next series of super-slim notebooks running on Intel Corp’s Ultrabook platform, said last month that the chances of the Padfone missing its Christmas launch date were high.

This is because it still has to overcome some technical glitches, given the technological barriers involved in combining a smartphone and a tablet seamlessly into a single functioning device, the source said.

In a bid to ensure the Padfone would replicate the success of its hot-selling Transformer tablet PCs, Asustek said development projects of second and third-generation Padfones are ongoing and they would hit retail stores next year.

“We are thinking of throwing in some features such as LTE [Long Term Evolution] or 3D into the newer generations of Padfone,” Sun said.

“A smooth and robust experience is of utmost importance if we are to wow users,” the executive added.

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