Asus Tablet Sneak Peek Suggests Slick Design, Possible Phone Capabilities

Leaked photos of a new Asus tablet and a Facebook page for the device suggest design is a major focus and cellular connectivity may be included.

As Asus grows its tablet portfolio, it's working to build some excitement for a new device scheduled to launch at the Computex show in Taiwan, which runs May 31-June 4.

Teaser images of the device's rounded edges and slicker lines have been leaked at Tech In Style, and a more mystical-looking than mystery-building Facebook fan page asks, "Break The Rules: Pad or Phone?" suggesting that that Asus may go the Dell Streak route and include cellular connectivity in the tablet.It appears that the Asus tablet will also be available in several color options, with at least blue-and-silver and bronze-and-silver options apparent in the photos.However, a sexy, iPad-challenging design isn't Asus' only plan for digging deeper into the tablet market. Like it did with netbooks, it's shooting for the lower extreme of the price-point spectrum, with a new, lowered starting price for its Eee Transformer tablet that puts it $100 below the iPad's starting price."Asustek began to market its 10.1-inch Eee Pad Transformer in the U.S. in May with the entry-level 16GB WiFi only model priced at [$400] which equals roughly NT$11,500 compared to a price of NT$14,900 set in April when the device was initially launched in Taiwan," Taipei-based DigiTimes reported May 23.On March 25, Asus unveiled the Transformer, a convertible tablet with an optional keyboard-based docking station and Google's Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" operating system. The rumor mill is putting its expected price point between $499 and $699, with the cost likely to rise with the inclusion of the dock. Best Buy, however, now offers the Transformer for $400 - a move already forcing at least one Asus competitor to rethink its pricing on comparable models, according to DigiTimes."Facing price competition from Asustek, Acer reportedly is reviewing its pricing for comparable models sold in the U.S. market," the report stated, citing unnamed sources and noting that Acer's current price for its 10.1-inch 16GB Iconia Tab is $450. "Prices for Android 3.1-based tablet PCs to be launched by other vendors in the second half of the year may also be affected with ASPs of Android 3.1 models likely to be dragged down by [$100]." It added that, again according to sources, Asus expects to ship 2 million tablets this year, with the Eee Pad Transformer accounting for half of those.In January at the Consumer Electronics Event, Asus introduced four tablets, only two of which-the Transformer and the Eee Pad-have so far come to market. The Eee Pad Slider and Eee Pad MeMo have yet to launch.The Dell Streak is one of few (and early) tablet models to offer cellular connectivity, straddling the line between smartphone and tablet. That straddling, however, got it into trouble, with critics saying it was too large to replace a phone but too small to offer a satisfying tablet experience. Later this year, Research In Motion is also expected to release a version of its BlackBerry PlayBook with cellular connectivity.