Asus is a great company. It makes the best Android tablet, the Nexus 7. It invented the netbook with the Asus Eee PC 701. It pioneered the ‘hybrid tablet’ concept with the Asus EeePad Transformer. It’s still the biggest and best PC component brand around. It takes risks. It makes the likes of Dell, HP and Acer look punch drunk and rudderless. It punches above its weight.
But Asus needs to grow up.
Before I explain why, I feel compelled to stress this isn’t a thinly veiled malice. When I say “Asus is a great company” I mean it. I like Asus. I like (most of) its products and own (have owned) a great many. I count at least two of their employees as close personal friends, and like and respect a great many more in a professional capacity. But sometimes it frustrates as much as it delights.
Let me explain why.
Good products solve problems, bad ones create them
This isn’t a newly-held view, but the catalyst for this particular piece was this week’s launch of the Asus Transformer Book Trio. For the uninitiated, it’s another variation on the nascent laptop-tablet hybrid category in which Asus is a leading light.
In this case it’s an 11.6-inch Android tablet and Windows 8 laptop in one, or a desktop-laptop-tablet ‘trio’ in Asus’s eyes, hence the name. The tablet segment has its own Intel Atom processor, integrated battery and storage but, when docked to the ‘laptop’ segment, it becomes the screen for a Windows 8, Intel Core i7 machine that has its own battery and hard drive as well.
For me, this is a classic Asus ‘fantasy’ product. It ranks beside the likes of the huge and expensive Bang & Olufsen laptop (NX90), Windows and Android all-in-one PC (Transformer AiO P1801) and numerous other ‘concepts’, as products that make good column inches and headline-grabbing ‘world first’ press releases at trade shows, but that no one ever will (or should) buy.
The Trio’s doubling up on hardware will make it prohibitively expensive, and dual-booting operating systems have never been (and never will be) a recipe for success. Netbooks proved that.
Indeed, I contend that the Asus Transformer Trio isn’t even a genuine hybrid. It’s two entirely separate products awkwardly strapped together with little thought to the end user’s best interest. In a time when people are gravitating towards smaller tablets (hello, Nexus 7), it’s a glorified monitor that’s too large to be a practical tablet. It creates more problems than it solves.
Unlocking its true potential
The Asus Transformer Book Trio crosses the line from brave innovation to attention seeking desperation. It yells “look at me”. It betrays an adolescent insecurity that Asus must banish.
Why? Because its actual products, the ones people do and should buy, are good enough to speak for themselves. Because stupid, nonsensical gimmicks distract from the Zenbook Infinity (its MacBook Air beating retina screen laptop), the wildly popular Nexus 7 and Transformer Pad Infinity.
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When I look at those products, I see a company that can mix it with the best. They’re quality products with great design, build quality and focus. They’re the kind of products that can lift Asus from being a well-regarded innovator into a titan of the industry. It’s not a closed shop. Just ask Samsung.
I know Asus is better than the Transformer Book Trio. It’s time to grow up and prove it, or it will forever fight at the fringes instead of the front lines.
Next, read why Intel’s Haswell processors could be the saviour of Windows 8