I have a strange feeling we won’t be seeing any of the potential iPad killers, or at least the devices with a shot of approaching Apple’s market success, until June, specifically the Computex tech showcase in Taipei.
Though Computex 2012 is the 32nd iteration of the computer expo, it has really taken off in recent years, growing in prominence along with many Taiwanese tech companies, including ASUS and HTC. It was just last year at Computex 2011 that Intel used its keynote address to unveil the Ultrabook form factor, which then dominated CES 2012 and is fast reshaping the notebook market.
There is reason to believe the same may happen for tablets at Computex 2012. First and foremost, it makes sense that ASUS and Google would use Computex to launch the long-rumored Google tablet that may be set for a July release. ASUS always has something to show at major tradeshows; it used Computex 2011 to launch the PadFone, CES to show off the Transformer Prime Infinity and $250 quad-core Tegra 3 MeMO tablet (which could actually be the Google tablet), and took the wraps off a series of Transformer Pad tablets at Mobile World Congress. As Computex is the unofficial “homeshow” for ASUS, I expect something big from the Transformer maker.
For Google, it is holding a developer conference, Google I/O, in late June where it could possibly unveil Android Jelly Bean 5.0. Google is in the habit of passing out reference devices to attendees (last year, everyone walked home with a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1), and a Google tablet giveaway makes a lot of sense, particularly if Google is going to “double down” on tablets as Google Android chief Andy Rubin claimed earlier this year. Google could jump the gun and introduce the tablet at CTIA in New Orleans on May 8, but that’s not likely as ASUS will not be attending the show.
Google won’t be the only OS developer at Computex, Microsoft will be there too, no doubt promoting Windows 8. While Microsoft has not announced an official launch date for its next version of Windows, most think it is due for an autumn release. Microsoft already used Mobile World Congress to announce Windows 8 Consumer Preview for x86 devices, but we still don’t know much about Windows 8 on ARM (WoA). Because NVIDIA, Texas Instruments, Marvell and other ARM chip makers will also be in attendance, we may learn more about this specific tablet-version of Windows 8, or at least catch another glimpse at the WoA reference hardware we saw at CES 2012 and maybe get some hands-on time.
Of course, Intel will be there again, and may look to one-up its Ultrabook announcement at last year’s show with some Windows 8 news, though it’s likely Intel will heavily promote the Ivy Bridge chips it’s expected to have out at the end of April.
At the very least, we should see some more Windows 8 tablets, particularly from Taiwanese companies like MSI and Gigabyte, if not ASUS, which produced one of the few high-profile Windows 7 tablets of 2011, the EP121, and is rumored to be working on a Windows 8 unit.
I’m interested to see what MSI does with Windows 8. It’s better known in the gaming community for its motherboards and graphics cards. However, it does produce devices, including a Windows 7 tablet dubbed the WindPad (pictured at Computex 2010) as well as a handful of all-in-ones and notebooks. MSI may be looking to emulate ASUS’s evolution from a component maker to a major device maker, as evident by their quality G-series gaming notebooks. Wouldn’t a Core-based Windows gaming tablet similar to the Razer Project Fiona be a nice addition to the MSI lineup?
Many don’t know that HTC is also based in Taiwan because for many years, the mobile maker has shunned Computex. HTC has since confirmed that it will be involved in Computex 2012, though in what capacity is still unknown. If the mobile-maker is indeed exhibiting, it is overdue for a tablet launch.
HTC only recently launched its One series Android smartphones, in addition to the EVO 4G LTE, so a CTIA surprise in May is probably off the table. But HTC has not launched a tablet since the HTC Jetstream last autumn, which was quickly forgotten despite being AT&T’s first LTE-enabled tablet. Previously, HTC released the Flyer and its WiMAX variant, the EVO View 4G, both of which found a nice niche as the first Android tablets to support an active stylus.
The One X and One S prove that HTC can build some seriously great Android hardware, so HTC has the potential to wow with its next tablet – if it is even making another tablet. There have been no rumors to suggest anything of the sort, but given that HTC has publically claimed it will scale back the number of handsets its launches in the future and has already launched its flagship One series and the new EVO, a new HTC tablet makes perfect sense for Computex.
Samsung and CTIA, IFA
Outside of the Google tablet rumors and ubiquitous iPad mini rumblings, there aren’t many tablet rumors floating around. We have no idea what Samsung is up to, outside of the mid-range Galaxy Tab 2 units and the now Galaxy Note 10.1. Surely Sammy has a high-end tablet in the works, perhaps with a high-resolution display and quad-core processor (new rumors indicate the Galaxy Note will sport a quad-core chipset). But assuming Samsung was going to unveil it at CTIA, which is only weeks away, something should have leaked out by now providing a hint of what’s to come. Since we’ve heard nothing, I’ve got to believe that Samsung is waiting until IFA in Germany this autumn, where it launched the original Galaxy Tab in 2010, as well as the Galaxy Note and Galaxy Tab 7.7 in 2011.
Close to the Chest
The iPad rivals have kept their cards close to their chests after a 2011 in which every major notebook and handset maker, sans Nokia, launched a tablet. At CES 2012, it was understandable as no company wanted to be upstaged by Apple, which everyone knew was going to introduce the next-generation iPad soon after in March. But now that we know what Apple was cooking, it’s time to see what ASUS, Samsung, HTC and the others have lined up to take on the market leader. The smart money says we’ll know by June at Computex.