Asustek tablet with Honeycomb goes on sale Friday in Taiwan

Eee Pad Transformers, the first Android 3.0 tablets from Asustek, come with USB and keyboard options

Asustek Computer said it would start selling its first tablet PCs with the speedy Android 3.0 operating system this week, spicing it up with USB ports and options for a detachable keyboard that doubles as a spare battery.

Pre-orders of the 10.1-inch touchscreen Eee Pad Transformer tablets begin Friday in Asustek's home market, Taiwan, before being rolled out elsewhere in the world, the company said on Monday.

Asustek, after fending off reports of a delay in launching the tablets, will debut them with Google's Android 3.0 Honeycomb OS, which should work faster and offer better resolution than earlier versions of the software.

It will rival Motorola’s Xoom tablet, which was launched last month and also runs on Android 3.0.

"In the future, from the end of March, other manufacturers will start bit by bit using 3.0, and older Android systems will be eliminated," said Helen Chiang, research manager with IDC in Taipei.

The Eee Pad Transformer also lets users convert the tablet to a netbook computer by attaching a keyboard, the company said in a statement. The keyboard also adds battery power to the tablet. The tablet on its own has 8-hours of battery life, while the keyboard would add another 8-hours.

The tablets come with either 16GB or 32GB of memory. The tablets run on Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core processors, contain two USB 2.0 ports and a Micro SD memory card reader. The tablets will sell for between US$399 and $699 each, with higher prices for better components.

Asustek announced the Eee Pad Transformer and three other tablets earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Market research firm DisplaySearch expects about 56 million tablets to be shipped in 2011, up more than 200 percent over 2010 tablet shipments.

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