Compal readies Windows, Android and MeeGo tablets

The world's second-biggest contract manufacturer of laptops says its customers are very interested in tablets

The world's second-largest contract manufacturer of laptops is spreading its bets on tablet PC operating systems. It is building tablets running Microsoft Windows, Google's Android, and the MeeGo OS backed by Intel and Nokia.

Taiwan's Compal Electronics, which develops and manufactures laptop computers for global PC vendors including Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Acer, has also joined the ranks of companies planning to create its own user interface (UI) and other software to support the tablet market.

"We have a lot of customers that are very interested in tablets," said Ray Chen, president and CEO of Compal, at a news conference in Taipei on Tuesday, adding that "demand is getting better and better because of the iPad."

Compal will have a few tablet PCs in mass production in the third quarter or fourth quarter, he said.

Apple's iPad has had a profound impact on the way companies look at mobile devices, and has spurred the rush to build rival products. Apple said Monday that it has sold 2 million iPads since the device's launch in early April.

Compal plans to invest more in software to boost its tablet business, including creating a UI and working more with Linux software, said Chen. The company, which has focused on computer hardware for decades, now boasts 250 software engineers.

"It's clear that apps are important," he said. The main challenge for tablet PCs going forward will be to become more user-friendly, he added.

Arm Holdings displayed a Compal-made tablet at its press conference on Monday, a device with a 7-inch touchscreen that runs Android and uses Nvidia Tegra chips. The chips have Arm-based processing cores. Compal showed off a few more tablets at its press conference, including a 10-inch tablet, but representatives declined to discuss their specifications.

Compal will also make tablets with Intel's x86-based chips, Chen said.

On Monday, Asustek Computer and Micro-Star International both revealed tablet PCs using Microsoft Windows OSs and one using Google's Android. MSI put its own UI on its Wind Pad 100 tablet.

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