Disappointed with Apple’s iPad? You’re not alone, which is why Asus’ announcement of a “killer product” coming in June raised so many eyebrows. While Apple’s iPhone represents a perfect cocktail that few competitors have been able to match, the iPad’s many shortcomings make it ripe for competition. Here are five things we think Asus will have to do to get some traction against Apple’s class-defining iPad.
Sell for less
Current rumors peg this thing at $500 or less. Depending on the hardware, that might still look like a bargain beside Apple’s base-model iPad, but we know Asus can do better. Recent iSuppli breakdowns show the $499 iPad costs Apple just $229, and all the parts for your basic, run-of-the-mill netbook only add up to about $200. We think Asus could move a tablet at $400 and still make a tidy profit, making it a genuinely competitive alternative to a netbook.
Come with touch-customized software
You can pick up an Archos 9 today if you just want a slate form factor running Windows 7 on netbook hardware. Besides the pretty chassis and world-class marketing behind the iPad, its biggest differentiator is finger-friendly software. Asus needs to make to take a clue and do more than just slap an icon-based launcher over the basic Windows 7 interface, as it has done with its touch-enabled Eee Top desktops.
Apple got off easy calling the iPad an e-reader despite its standard LCD display, but any true reading device should really have an outdoor-readable transflective display, like the e-ink used in the Kindle and Nook. Qualcomm’s upcoming Mirasol color displays could offer a compromise between color LCDs and monochrome e-ink, and being first to market with one would make Asus’s pad a class leader.
We were going to mention that any upcoming Asus tablet would have to multitask, but that’s almost a given for any company but Apple, considering it will most likely ride on a platform like Windows 7 or Google Android. Instead, we’ll harp on multi-touch. Many tablets, including the Archos 9, have gone with cheap resistive screens, which are totally unacceptable for a device with only touch input. A capacitive screen is a must, as is multitouch.
Shoot pictures and video
How Apple managed to leave this simple $3 part off the iPad is beyond us, but a 1.3-megapixel camera sensor makes a huge difference to most users who want to share what they experience with the rest of the world. Adding a forward-facing one for videoconferencing would just twist the knife a little more.
Connect to 3G or WiMax Networks
Nobody wants a tablet that can’t leave the house. Although Asus need not partner with any networks, a basic 3G or WiMax modem will be a necessity for users who intend to use their tablets as 24/7 connectivity machines, even if it’s presented as an expensive option.