ASUS covering all Windows 8 bases: Predict confused market

ASUS is showing a range of devices at Computex this week designed to handle every form factor for Windows 8. Hopefully that "one-size-fits-all" approach won't confuse the buyer.

PC maker ASUS is in Computex this week unveiling a whole line of tablets, laptops, and hybrids running Windows 8. Microsoft is counting on Windows 8 to handle all types of PCs, and ASUS is looking to offer them all. While the early look at these mobile computers is interesting, consumers may be overwhelmed when it comes time to figure out what they need to buy.

The Transformer book system that ASUS is showing looks like a fantastic implementation of Windows 8. It is based on the popular Transformer Prime Android hybrid system consisting of a tablet that detaches from a laptop dock.

The Transformer Prime impressed me as the best Android tablet solution I have tried, with its great tablet that becomes a full laptop replacement when needed. Apparently ASUS listened when I explained why I wanted one of these systems running Windows RT, and the company is showing off one at Computex.

Windows 8 will come in two versions for mobile devices, Windows RT for ARM-based systems such as the Tranformer, and Windows 8 for Intel x86-based systems. ASUS intends to cover them both and is also showing an 11-inch tablet running the Intel Atom processor, also with a detachable laptop dock. This will be able to run legacy Windows apps due to the ability of Windows 8 (and not Windows RT) to handle such apps. The traditional Windows crowd will likely prefer this device running "full-blown" Windows.

ASUS is also showing two innovative hybrid systems at Computex, called the Taichi, that have two displays. One is exposed in a conventional laptop configuration running Windows which makes it a typical Ultrabook type of device. However when the lid is closed the second display takes over, turning the hybrid into a touch tablet. There will be two screen sizes, 11-inch and 13-inch. The intention is to offer the best of both worlds, a tablet and an Ultrabook.

These two devices will likely be expensive due to the double screen configuration, so we'll have to see how the market reacts to them once they are released late this year. The weight penalty of the attached keyboard will not be an advantage while using them in tablet mode, so that's a hurdle that ASUS will have to jump. They will also have Intel processors onboard, so they will run Windows 8 and not Windows RT.

These devices from ASUS are just the beginning for Windows 8 devices we will see announced over the next few months. No mention of pricing is being given by ASUS for any of them, and that detail is huge in the tablet market. The two different processor architectures being used, along with the two vastly different versions of Windows, will also be a big factor in how the market receives them.

The deal recently announced by ASUS to include the ability to run Android apps on its Windows PCs is looking pretty savvy.

That market may end up being very confused at the choices that have to be made at purchase time. Should the buyer go Windows 8 or Windows RT? Tablet only or tablet/ laptop configuration? Detachable screen or single device? One display or two?

Don't misunderstand me, I firmly believe choice is a good thing. The more choices to make, the better. But most mainstream consumers looking for a tablet are going to want one like the iPad. That means one running Windows RT with the full Metro app experience. Unfortunately they aren't going to know that, and they will end up buying whatever Windows tablet the sales rep recommends. That could very well be one with an Intel processor running regular Windows 8, if that's what the rep prefers. The end result will be an unhappy buyer.

While ASUS is obviously trying to cover all the form factors that Windows 8 will handle, it turns the consumer decision at buying time into a daunting one. Hopefully the message given to the market will clear things up for the buyer before they head to the store.

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