First, let me list some of the current eeeProducts. (If you want to understand the Transformer, it first needs to be in context.) It wasn't until I gathered these details into one place that I realized quite what they meant. Note that this isn't all the eeeProducts listed on the, just the ones I'm familiar with.
When you line up the product names (not always mentioned in complete detail), the unique nature of each model should be pretty obvious:
- Asus eee Reader DR900 (ebook reader w\9" Sipix screen)
- Asus eee Note ea800 (digital notepad w\8" unique LCD screen)
- Asus eee Pad Transformer (Android netbook convertible disguised as a 10" tablet)
- Asus eee Slider (Android tablet convertible)
- Asus eee Slate (Win7 tablet PC)
Do you see how each one has very different specs and how they're each a one-off product alone in a niche? That's because each of the devices listed above is an experiment. Much like the original eee 701, Asus is experimenting to find the new product niches, uses, and abilities. In fact, I would bet that the eeeProduct line will be where you find a lot of Asus experiments.
It's not surprising that few understand what the eee Pad Transformer really is; after all, it's being marketed as a tablet. (The keyboard component is even called a Mobile Dock, for reasons unknown.) Yes, it's a very nice tablet, but it's also a very nice netbook convertible.
Add the keyboard component and you have 16 hours battery life in a netbook that costs only $50 more than an iPad. It also has a heavily customized version of Android v3.0 Honeycomb. The trackpad, function keys, and other parts of the keyboard are so thoroughly integrated that it clearly wasn't an afterthought. The keyboard is part of the original design.
I suspect that Asus made the eee Pad Transformer not just to release a premium tablet. I think it's also an attempt to create a new hybrid tablet/netbook niche. Yes, netbooks are dead, but if you combine the 2 niches then you have a new usability model. And like the eee701, Asus got into the new niche before anyone else.
BTW, you could slap a keyboard on an iPad in order to get similar functionality, but it wouldn't work this well. An iPad with a keyboard is still an iPad with a keyboard; the Transformer is a netbook convertible.
So if we could go back to the list, I'm not really sure that each of the eeeProducts are actually experiments. But I would give that label to the eeeNote, eeePad, and eeeSlider.
I also suspect that the eeeReader was an experiment in a niche that for the most part died before the eeeReader was released.Whoops. But that's what happens with experiments; they don't always succeed.
This, folks, is why I am watching Asus with anticipation. They keep doing interesting things.