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Tablet v PC -- Asus straddles the fuzzy divide

The Transformer AiO is a desktop PC that doubles as a tablet

In the face of a slump in PC sales and industry debate over whether the smartphone or tablet is now the preferred tool for a large segment of domestic and even small business users, Asus continues to release a number of combined and flexible devices that try to play on both sides of the dividing lines.

The most recent, announced in New Zealand are the FonePad, a large-format smartphone -- or small tablet -- with a seven-inch touch screen and an "all-in-one" desktop doubling as a tablet, the Transformer AoI.

The Transformer AiO (All-in-One) has an 18.4-inch detachable display, which runs as a stand-alone tablet, albeit a rather cumbersome one. Based on an Intel Core processor, it runs either Windows 8 or Android operating systems.

The Transformer AiO's base station is a fully functional desktop in itself independent of the tablet-style screen and can be used through a separate monitor.

Also confirmed for launch in New Zealand is the Transformer Book convertible notebook. Hung says 80 percent of Asus's market is through the retail stores such as Harvey Norman and Noel Leeming in NZ, but channels established to target the business user are expanding.

She says the lines of division between the full-format laptop, the notebook with touch-screen, the tablet and the smartphone are blurred now and are not likely to get any more well-defined. It is the end-user who will decide which machine fits into which role, she says.

Dean Williams, Asus's product marketing manager for notebooks, testifies that his job is becoming harder as tablets move into the market segment traditionally handled by notebooks.

Among other recent Asus releases is the TaiChi (pictured), which features a double-sided screen combining notebook and tablet formats. In notebook mode, the same image can be displayed on both sides of the screen, allowing a user to work on the notebook screen while demonstrating to a small audience.

Perhaps less believably -- purely from a social-dynamics point of view -- it is suggested that a home-office worker can run office applications on the machine's notebook screen while their children play a game on the other side.


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