CES tends to be a hectic time. Every manufacturer, big and little, has something to show off. And every journalist from every blog, rag and mag has at least one pet story to push. The news fills with pictures of future-toys and excited yammering thereabout. In all the clutter, it can be hard for even an exceptional product to shine.
Which is why Asus has been so diligent in teasing the Eee Pad out bit by bit. First was that video with CEO Jonney Shih, which revealed a Windows 7 slate with a Core i5 processor and 1080p playback. It was billed as, finally, a productive tablet. But even in that commercial, it was clear that Asus had tablet plans beyond Windows 7.
The ad ended with Jonney letting us know that this was "just the beginning". And now, thanks to a leak from Engadget we know what the next step down that road is. This Eee Pad appears to actually be a tablet-PC with a swiveling keyboard. The OS is Android though, based on the hardware buttons. Oh, and that port? USB 3.0, which is about the best pre-CES tablet news I've heard yet.
There's also a second tablet, and it appears to have a sliding keyboard. The presence of a touchscreen and a keyboard automatically makes our minds jump to the tablet-book form-factor. But that may not be fair.
Asus seems to see tablets in much the same light as smartphones. A tablet-book is a notebook with a touchscreen. This makes it better for use as a drawing slate and allows for easy, lean-back browsing of the Internet. But a tablet-book is NOT a tablet. It is too bulky and too slow to be the same sort of mobile device as an iPad.
However, there is literally NO reason Asus can't make a dedicated tablet (mobile OS, good battery life, 'instant' on, etc) that also happens to have a sliding or swiveling keyboard. Think a G1 or G2 or Epic- you don't call it a smartphone-book because it has a keyboard. That said, the second device pictured DOES look like a tablet-book. It appears extremely thick.
Right now, we seem to have three Asus slates. One runs Windows 7, one runs Win 7 or Android and has a sliding keyboard, while the third runs Android and has a swiveling keyboard. We'll learn what's up for sure at CES 2011.