So far, the only close-to-really-new announcements have come from ASUS. That might be because the 2011 CES story is about incremental improvement and minor innovations, not radically new products or services. Or it could be a question of chipsets.
Everyone is hinting or outright pimping upcoming tablet computer announcements, but not actually saying what it is. That’s a little unusual for press days at CES, but it could be because Intel has what it thinks is a huge announcement to make in a few minutes, and they’ve turned the screws on their customers with the idea of managing some kind of coordinated roll out.
ASUS could talk because its Eee Pad family is powered by Snapdragon and Nvidia silicon, plus an older Intel chip. The rest – LG, MSI, Microsoft and more – could be hiding under an embargo agreement for now.
Jonney rocks it like SteveAll he needed was the black turtleneck. OK, Steve Jobs’ reality distortion field would have helped too.
ASUS chairman Jonney Shih borrowed the Apple chairman’s presentation style, falling only a little short on the mojo. Shih introduced four different implementations of the new eee Pad family of touchscreen tablets.
First up was the Eee Pad MeMo, a 7-inch tablet device that looks a lot like a big iPod Touch and runs Android on a Snapdragon processor. Two of the other new devices are also Android-based, running an Nvidia Tegra 2 CPU/GPU combo chip set and sporting a 10-inch touchscreen.
The Eee Pad Transformer is a tablet computer with an integrated docking station that looks like a conventional laptop when it’s all snapped together. The docking station provides a keyboard, extra power and familiar ergonomics. The Eee Pad Slider does a similar trick with a slide-out keyboard. Slate does Windows
The powerhouse new product, and the first one to market, is the 12-inch Eee Pad Slate, which runs Windows Home 7 on a more a traditional Intel Core i5 CPU. The product demo emphasized the eee Slate’s raw computing power. It appears to be a fully functional PC with a iPad-like form factor, albeit bigger.
The Eee Pad family is not vapor ware. The products were demonstrated live on stage, and Shih gave specifics about market launch dates and price points:
Eee Pad Slate, available January, US$999 to $1,099.
Eee Pad Transformer, available April, US$399 to $699
Eee Pad Slider, available May, US$499 to $799
Eee Pad Memo, available June, US$499 to $699
Shih continually benchmarked the new products against the iPad and its iOS cousins. And he pushed the idea that ASUS is Apple’s equal when it comes to innovation, a claim that leaned heavily on the hazy concept products and services he threw out at the end.
He talked about personal cloud computing devices, something called Waveface seamless mobility, DIY 2.0 which is supposed to be the new Web 2.0, and IRIS, which stands for “inspirational research for immersive space.” People love sliders
Waveface and DIY 2.0 are still half-formed concepts, as Shih pointed out, while IRIS is the catch-all for futuristic concept products. Shih was clearly trying to show that he and ASUS have Apple-like vision, and compared to run-of-the-mill computer makers they do. But they also need to remember that Apple’s mystique rests on the company’s practice of only taking about real, shippable products.
Reality distortion field or not, when Jobs introduces a truly new product it comes with a high degree of confidence that Apple will shortly be selling it. Shih still has to deliver on his conceptual promises.
MSI, on the other hand, was taking on Intel’s “Only the Paranoid Survive” persona. We had to sign a news embargo agreement to enter, only to be told ten minutes later that the embargo has been lifted. Which turned out to be OK with Intel because MSI’s US head sales guy, Andy Tung, said they weren’t going to talk about interesting products like tablets until Thursday. Because of Intel.
MSI’s sexy thingIntel’s Dan Snyder spoke briefly about the embargoed Sandy Bridge chip, and did say that it’ll be great for transcoding video to iPhones. Unfortunately, MSI doesn’t make the iPhone.
MSI talked about three conventional computer lines: the G series for gaming and high performance audio and video, the F series for everyday business and the C series for long battery life and, presumably, mobility.
ASUS easily won the Tuesday pre-Press Day derby at CES. They recognize that success in the consumer electronics business is not about clock speed or motherboards, but about the customer experience. Apple transformed itself from a computer company into a premium consumer brand. ASUS isn’t there yet, but they know which road they need to take.