Gigabyte Technology has begun taking orders for its S1080 Windows 7 tablet in its home market of Taiwan, and expects to start sales in other parts of the world next month.
The S1080 runs Microsoft's Windows 7 Home Premium OS, unusual in a market dominated by Apple's iPad running iOS, with Google's Android operating system on many of the remaining devices. Gigabyte is not alone -- Dell and Asustek Computer also sell Windows tablets, but they make Android tablets too.
Gigabyte, known best for making PC motherboards, launched the tablet at Taipei's Spring Computer Fair over the weekend, after exhibiting it at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.
The S1080 has a 10.1-inch screen, a 320 GB hard drive, webcam, and ports for USB 3.0, USB 2.0, external monitor, microphone, headphones and an SD Card. Mouse buttons give users a choice of using either those or the tablet's touch functions to edit documents. It also has a Gigabyte-Ethernet port, an 802.11n Wi-Fi interface and a slot for a 3G wireless card.
At 895 grams, it weighs more than the iPad (613g) or the Motorola Xoom (730g), perhaps because of its hard disk, the number of ports or the larger battery (29.4 watt-hours, compared to around 25Wh for the other devices) required to power its dual-core Intel Atom N570 processor.
The choice of processor is related to Gigabyte's choice of operating system: Windows 7 only runs on x86 chips such as the Atom or other, more powerful, processors from Intel or AMD, while Android and Apple's iOS run on processors designed by ARM that consume relatively little power.
The S1080's Taiwan price of NT$22,900 (US$787) is a little over the NT$22,800 price tag of an Apple iPad with 64GB of Flash memory, Wi-Fi and 3G. (The iPad 2 is not yet on sale in Taiwan.)
Gigabyte said it chose Windows because that system dovetails with Microsoft Office software, which the company expects business customers to find useful if staff must make presentations on the move. However, that argument holds for the iPad and Android phones too: Apple sells Keynote, an app that can open and save presentations in Microsoft's PowerPoint file format, while Documents To Go from DataViz and other apps can do the same on Android tablets.
Tracy Tsai, principal analyst with Gartner in Taipei, acknowledged that "the Windows advantage is that it's easy for users to coordinate their office data," but said Gigabyte may have chosen Windows because only makers of mobile devices can get Android 3.0 from Google. "A lot of vendors can't get Android 3.0," she said.
Gigabyte would not say whether it had access to Android 3.0.
Tsai said the tablet would suit a niche market of mobile professionals.
Gigabyte calls the S1080 its first "full tablet" after producing five convertible ones over the past three years. Convertible tablets are heavier: like laptops they have a keyboard and a hinged display, but the display can also be rotated so it remains visible when folded across the keyboard.