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Taiwan: Who needs Apple's iPad?

Apple's gadget has inspired tributes, poor-man's versions and outright knockoffs.

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Forget the Foxconn suicide scandal and technology worker rights. At this year's Computex trade show in Taipei, it was all about the hot-selling tablet from Apple.

From cheap Chinese knock-offs to more upscale versions boasting everything the iPad lacks, Apple's latest gadget loomed large.

Some have been slinging around phrases like "iPad killer" to describe new entrants. But most commentators are skeptical that any of them really have what it takes to go toe-to-toe with the iPad, an astounding 2 million of which have already been sold since its launch in April, at a starting price of $499.

Still, some firms in Asia at least appear to be making a valiant effort. Here's a quick tour of the "me-too" iPads on display last week in Taipei.

Move over iPad, it's the eeePad

Perhaps the most promising iPad-inspired product is the eeePad, the not-so-subtly named tribute gadget from Taiwan tech powerhouse Asustek.

This Taiwan upstart shocked the tech world by pioneering the commercial netbook sector with its midget eeePC. Now it's trying to replicate that success with a tablet computer.

There's just one catch: it's not for sale yet anywhere.

Asustek hopes for a global launch in the first quarter of 2011, but says in the meantime it's working to develop content for the gadget, including a web-based multimedia content and applications platform, ASUS@Vibe. It's also partnering with Intel to use Intel's applications store.

Asus says it hopes to offer both content platforms with the eeePad, after a trial period offering Intel's apps store with its eeePC in the second half of this year. "It's a new device, so it will take time to see how the market evaluates it," said Asustek spokesperson Jessie Lee.

Asustek's products are always snazzily designed, and the eeePad prototype is no exception. The company plans to sell a 10" version priced around $449 and a pricier 12" version. Its major selling point is that it's got all the cool stuff the iPad lacks: a USB port, a webcam and support for Adobe's Flash player. It's also got a nifty keyboard dock.

The eeePad has more computing power than the iPad, says product manager Jason Wu, and battery life is estimated at six to 10 hours. "We think we can bring the full PC experience but with more fun and fashion," said Wu. "No one should sacrifice their computing experience to use a tablet."

Attack of the iPad clones

Over at Intel's booth, a full range of iPad clones was on display. There was the Amtec iTablet T10H, Gemsta's GIGA9, NFS's NPAD, Compal's NEZ00 and MSI's WindPad, to name just a few. The common denominator: all run on Intel's Atom processor.

"The market's there, so everyone's looking for a tablet solution," explained Intel product marketing manager Daniel Lee. "It's hard to tell what the retail prices will be but I think they will be competitive with Apple."

"This market is evolving, so everyone is working on a price point and on content," he added.

For its part, Intel is focusing on how to work with partners on reducing power consumption. "We have a lot of room to improve, and a lot of work to do in the next couple years," said Lee. "We'll spend a lot of resources and energy on this segment."

China's iPad

One company that's actually got a head start on Apple is Hanvon from China, where the iPad is not yet for sale.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/china-and-its-neighbors/100608/apple-iPad-taiwan