Taiwanese PC maker Micro-Star International (MSI) said on Thursday it would target business users with the release of three new 10.1-inch touchscreen tablet PCs on June 1, two with Windows 7 and one with Google's Android Honeycomb OS.
The WindPad tablet running on Android Honeycomb uses an Nvidia Tegra 2 processor. The second tablet has AMD's Brazos processor plus a display-enhancing chipset, and the third is equipped with an Intel Atom processor for handhelds.
The Android device will go on sale for US$399, while the Windows 7 WindPad with the Intel processor will start at $549, said MSI marketing manager Luc Liao. A price has not yet been set for the Windows 7 model with the AMD processor, but he said it will likely be between the prices of the other two WindPads.
The Android WindPad is among the first Honeycomb tablets to cost less than an iPad, which starts at $499. Motorola's Xoom, by contrast, carries an $800 price tag.
MSI, a 25-year-old manufacturer that also makes notebook computers, announced basic designs for the 10.1-inch WindPads at the Computex electronics show in Taipei last year.
MSI claims battery life of six hours on the Windows tablets and eight on the Android system. All models come with accelerometers to detect the orientation of the device and rotate images on the screen depending on how it's being held, as well as an auto light sensor to adjust screen brightness to better match the user's lighting situation, and Wi-Fi, according to MSI.
The Android tablet weighs 800 grams and is just 13 millimeters at its thinnest point.
When all three tablets are released, MSI expects to attract business users who prefer Windows over Apple operating systems, said Liao.
"If you like the Mac OS, you'd choose the iPad, but if you prefer Windows 7 or Android, you'd choose ours," Liao said. "Business people who use Windows already will find that these tablets work with what they've done before."
Helen Chiang, research manager at IDC in Taipei said the prices of MSI's new WindPads were in line with other non-Apple tablets. And MSI will meet resistance if it markets the tablets as a replacement for laptops, because the three models are too small for easy use of software such as spreadsheets, she said.
"Consumers would see it more as a secondary device," Chiang said.
Other firms, such as Sony, Acer and Asustek Computers, are gearing up this year to take on the iPad, which was the dominant tablet PC maker last year with about 90 percent of the 17 million unit global market, according to IDC.
Market research firm DisplaySearch estimates that 56 million tablets will be produced in 2011, up more than 200 percent over 2010 shipments.