Asus Plans Eee Pad Android Tablet for March

Asustek Computer will launch the Eee Pad EP101TC as its first Android tablet in March to compete with the low-end Apple iPad. Asus will also launch two Windows-based tablets.

Oracle's patent infringement suit versus Google over Android aside, product development on Android continues unabated.

Asustek Computer, whose Windows XP-based Eee PC netbooks are popular in the United States and abroad, will launch its first Android tablet in March, Asus CEO Jerry Shen said.

PCWorld said Asus' first Android tablet will feature the Eee Pad brand and will cost less than $399, comparing favorably to Apple's trail-blazing iPad, which starts at $499. This low-end, 10-inch device is being branded the Eee Pad EP101TC.

Asus will launch a 12-inch, high-end tablet based on Windows 7 Home Premium Operating System for $1,000 in December or January, Shen said.

This machine, tagged the Eee Pad EP121, is priced so much higher than the Android tablet partly because it will sport a docking station that lets users transform it into a laptop computer.

The company will launch another Windows-based Eee Pad sans docking station in January. This 10-inch device, running Windows Embedded Compact 7, will sit between the Android-based EP101TC and the Eee Pad EP121 and cost $399 to $499.

But it's clear Asus is betting big on Android from the development manpower it's throwing at the platform.

Shen told reporters after the company's earnings call Aug. 13 that Asus has more than 800 software engineers working on Android, most of whom are working for the company's smartphone division.

Some of those engineers will be transferred to the tablet product division in an effort to focus on challenging the iPad and other Android tablets entering the market.

While Apple is selling million of iPads, Android tablets are pouring into the market much the way Android-based smartphones proliferated.

Motorola is building a tablet with a 10-inch screen powered by a 1GHz or 1.3GHz processor. The tablet, according to Boy Genius Report, will boast a front-facing camera for video chat and Android 3.0 when it appears in 2011.

It is not clear if this is the same Motorola-Verizon TV tablet the Financial Times reported. Lenovo, Samsung, Hewlett-Packard and others are all building tablets based on Android.

Some 70 Android-based phones have flooded the market since late 2008, and it's no stretch to think the same success won't be duplicated for tablets.

That is, of course, unless Oracle succeeds in halting use of the Android OS due to concerns that it infringes on Java patents it gained when it bought Sun Microsystems this year.