More Bad News On the Tablet Front

So, ASUS announced their two new Eee Pads today at Computex. And, they really look beautiful. Simple, clean design. Aluminum edges, thin, and according to Engadget, "neither was particularly heavy". But then there is this (from Anand):

There are two versions of the Eee Pad, a 12" and a 10" model. I'll start with the 10" first as it is the closest competitor to the iPad. The EP101TC runs Windows Embedded Compact 7 (Windows CE based) and uses NVIDIA's Tegra 2.

Windows CE? Seriously? Well, maybe the 12" will get some Android-love...

The 12" Eee Pad shares little in common with the 10" version other than the name. The EP121 uses a CULV Intel Core 2 Duo CPU and runs Windows 7 Home Premium.

Well, that's a better option than Windows CE, I guess, but we've already seen tons of tablet-style PCs. Without an OS specifically designed for a finger-friendly touch UI, the system really breaks down. Sure, certain applications that are designed with a touch interface in mind will work fine, but then you end up trying to configure the thing in the control panel, or use multiple tabs in your browser, and you start to see where the paradigm breaks down. In other words... If you need to use a stylus, then you've already failed (and there's a difference between needing a stylus, and being able to use a stylus when it suits you). And then there's this, from Engadget: "The EP121 wasn't booting at all". Oh, so it doesn't actually "run" Windows 7. It has a Windows 7 sticker on the glass. I see. Sign me up!

Switching back to the Tegra 2 powered 10" tablet, we get this (again, from Engadget):

An NVIDIA Tegra-powered EP101TC was powering on, but its Windows Embedded Compact 7-based interface was still noticeably buggy, and the touchscreen quite unresponsive. The UI certainly looked attractive enough, and our swipe motions across the capacitive touchscreen were handled admirably, but ASUS definitely has a ways to go in terms of functionality. We wish we had more impressions to share, but it looks as if we'll have to wait for a less half-baked iteration to really dive in.

It does look attractive, I suppose, but if I'm going to switch from the iPhone OS platform (abandoning all of my existing apps), I'm sure not going to do it for a Windows CE device. Not at this stage anyway. Perhaps after Windows Phone 7 comes out and matures for a while and proves itself in the market (assuming that those two OSes are effectively the same, and can run the same software, which isn't at all clear). Otherwise, I think Android is the best hope of a real iPad competitor. But this, along with news that many Android tablets are also not even close to ready, doesn't bode well at all.

Again, the hardware looks good on both devices. As far as the thinness and weight, the EP101TC is effectively the same exact weight as the iPad (675g vs Apple's quoted 0.68kg), and is actually a little thinner at 12.2mm (vs. Apple's 13.4). I haven't seen word on the exact dimensions of the 12" part, but I'd guess it is probably quite a bit more hefty and with a Core 2 Duo in there, certainly a bit thicker (and no word on if it will be a fanless design either). But hardware without the software is useless. And, frankly, if it is this early with the OSes not booting or not running well at all, then it is quite possible that those specs will change before the actual release. Again, hopefully these are just "early" looks. But Computex was supposed to be the big coming out party for the iPad competition. This really isn't a great start!

If everyone and their brother knew that Apple was working on a fancy, magical tablet for so long, and had all that time to prepare, then what the heck is taking so long? If what Apple put out was "just a big iPod touch" then why didn't you just put out a big Android tablet three days later?

Me thinks that it wasn't as easy as people may have expected.

Update: MSI apparently also showed off their Windows 7-powered WindPad 100 and Android-powered WindPad 110 at Computex (though apparently only talked about the Windows 7 version in their press conference). According to Engadget, MSI isn't even sure if they are planning to bring the Android tablet to market, and the model they showed certainly just seemed like a mock-up (stock Android only, not even remotely customized for the tablet). I can't say much else about these other than this: Wow, take a look at the cheap plastic ugly.

Update 2: More bad news... The quoted 10-hour battery life on the 12" Windows 7 Eee Pad? Apparently, that isn't quite as simple as it seems either. According to Cyril over at Tech Report, the announcement was for "10 hours of battery life for the docked config". So, that battery life only applies to when it is docked into it's keyboard dock, not to the Eee Pad itself in "normal" usage mode.