What is ASUS hiding on the 13th floor? That’s the question following a visit to its Taiwan-based headquarters in Taipei, sponsored by TAITRA, the Taiwan External Trade Development Council.
The 13th floor is where ASUS employees work on future and top-secret products, according to ASUS reps, and we have a nagging suspicion it’s where we would catch a glimpse of the rumored Google Nexus tablet that ASUS and Google may be constructing. The device in question will (or simply could) be a 7-inch Android Ice Cream Sandwich tablet that may or may not sport a Tegra 3 quad-core processor, and could cost as little as $150.
It’s Google’s tablet answer to its Nexus smartphone line that serves as a reference for other handset makers and ships with the latest version of the Android operating system. The most current, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, was the first to ship with ICS, and is currently among the top-rated smartphones on the market. News of the Google tablet first emerged in December when Google CEO Eric Schmidt reportedly told an Italian newspaper that Google was working on a “tablet of the highest quality” to be released this summer.
Later rumors, mostly sourced to the often-unreliable DigiTimes (also based in Taiwan), pinged ASUS as the manufacturer, claiming that the Google tablet could actually be the $250 Tegra 3 ASUS MeMO tablet unveiled at CES 2012. Though later reports suggested the Google ASUS tablet could cost as little as $150 or $200 and have a dual-core processor in order to achieve the low price.
What’s more, comments made my ASUS reps suggested the $250 MeMO actually marks the evolution of the glasses-free 3D MeMO unveiled at Computex 2011 last May, though without the 3D display (it seems ASUS wisely jumped off the mobile 3D bandwagon). Complicating things further is the fact that ASUS showed off virtually the same MeMO at CES 2011 (which is currently available in Taiwan), along with the original Transformer, Slider, and EP121 Windows tablet PC.
We’ll Know Soon Enough
Unfortunately, ASUS was not about to let the team of journalists assembled in their lobby up 13 flights, so we do not know for sure. ASUS could save the Google tablet announcement for Computex 2012, which kicks off June 5 in Taipei. Google also has the Google IO developer conference scheduled for June 27 in San Francisco. While it’s widely believed Google will spill the beans on its latest Android operating system update, Jelly Bean 5.0, they could also unveil and distribute the Google tablet to lucky attendees. Last year at the same event, everyone walked home with a Galaxy Tab 10.1.
Google Needs to Do Something
The tablet market wasn’t kind to Google in 2011, as most Honeycomb 3.x tablets failed to make a significant dent in the Apple iPad’s market dominance. The Amazon Kindle Fire came close, though it runs a heavily skinned version of Android (Gingerbread 2.3) that bears no resemblance to any officially-sanctioned Google devices, and gets its apps from the Amazon Appstore for Android instead of the Google Play Store/Android Market.
Amazon, and to a lesser extent Barnes & Noble , managed to undercut most Google tablet makers with an extremely low price point ($200 for the Fire, $200 – $250 for the NOOK Tablet) and Google could steal back some significant market share with a competitively-priced tablet of its own.
Whatever the case, we should know by June just what ASUS was working on in its top-secret 13th floor.