Taiwanese PC brand Asustek Computer Inc (華碩電腦) said yesterday that it expects its tablet computer sales to increase from 1.8 million units last year to 6 million this year because of its early adoption of Google Inc’s latest Android operating system.
Android version 4.0, dubbed “Ice Cream Sandwich,” will be released on Thursday for users of Asustek’s Eee Pad Transformer Prime tablet, making Asustek the world’s first tablet PC maker to adopt this open platform, Asustek vice president and general manager of its Eee system business unit Samson Hu (胡書賓) said.
“Our relationship with Google has improved and this year we have already planned products on open platforms, including Android and Windows,” Hu told a media briefing.
The Taipei-based manufacturer will unveil a 7-inch Android-powered tablet and a 10-inch model enabling higher screen resolution at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) at the Las Vegas Convention Center in the US next week, with another two 10-inch Android products to be launched in the first half of this year, he said.
Asustek also plans to introduce a tablet featuring Microsoft Corp’s Windows 8 system and a chipset from ARM Holdings PLC in the second half of this year, but shipments will be limited this year because of the product’s late launch, Hu said.
Meanwhile, the company expects to begin shipping the 3G version of the Transformer Prime in March, which will offer better global positioning system (GPS) connectivity than the Wi-Fi version.
To deal with the increasing numbers of tablet products, Asustek plans to expand its staff of researchers working on Android software this year from 300 people to 400, with another 150 engineers focusing on the Windows platform, according to the company.
Other electronics makers will also present new tablet computers at the CES next week, but far less than last year, when more than 80 contenders were fielded.
Forrester analyst Sarah Rothman Epps expects Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc, Toshiba Corp, Acer Inc (宏碁) and others to introduce tablets powered by Android software.
“Will they sell better than last year? I don’t expect to see any barn-burners, but there’s reason to be optimistic,” she said.
The percentage of US tablet shoppers who said they prefered Android systems doubled to 18 percent in the first 10 months of last year, according to Forrester.
While tablet computers aspiring to unseat Apple’s market-ruling iPads were the rage at last year’s CES, slim yet powerful laptop computers referred to as “ultrabooks” are expected to crowd the spotlight next week.
CES organizers on Thursday predicted that 30 to 40 new ultrabooks would debut at the show.