Gigabyte to sell dual-boot Windows-Android tablet this year

Gigabyte will launch two Android tablets this year, including one that runs Windows, and a Windows 8 tablet next year

Taiwanese motherboard maker Gigabyte Technology will come out with two Android tablets later this year, including one that can also run Windows, and a Windows 8 tablet next year, the company senior vice president said on Wednesday.

Those tablets follow the release of Gigabyte's S1080, a heavy tablet that runs Windows 7 Home Premium. The Gigabyte tablets will enter an increasingly crowded tablet market, as makers from Apple to obscure white-box brands launch new models this year.

Gigabyte tablets due by July will come in two screen sizes, 7 inches and 10 inches, said Senior Vice President Richard Ma.

The larger ones will run Google's Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) OS, which was designed expressly for tablets, and the smaller ones will run the older Android 2.2 system. Android 3.0 better supports bigger screens, whereas Android 2.x was designed for mobile phones.

Another line of Gigabyte tablets, due in October, will be able to run either Windows 7 or Android, letting users choose when they start up the machine. That would give something to both casual Internet users who prefer Android and to business users who find Windows more compatible with Microsoft Office software, Ma said. Gigabyte has not decided which Android version to use, he said.

Although Android users can use tablets to read documents, compatible tablet software seldom allows editing those files and therefore the system does not appeal to business users, Ma said.

Both the tablets release in July and in October will use Intel Atom processors but not include USB ports. They will sell for less than US$400 per unit, he said. He would not release other specifications, saying they had not been finalized.

Gigabyte will also begin developing a Windows 8 tablet by the end of the year. That tablet will be on the market in the final quarter of 2012, possibly using an ARM processor.

Microsoft demonstrated an early build of Internet Explorer 10 running on an ARM chip at the Mix11 conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday, and has said that the next version of Windows will work on ARM processors as well as those based on the x86 architecture.

"Everyone is hoping that Windows 8 will support ARM," Ma said.

If ARM and Windows don't work together by late next year then, the tablet due on the market then will use an Intel x86 processor, Ma said. He did not give detailed specifications for the planned Windows 8 tablet.

Only a small proportion of tablets sold today run Windows. Apple's iOS is expected to dominate the media tablet market this year with 48 million units, a 69 percent share, with Android taking a 20 percent share, market research firm Gartner said in a report Monday. Windows tablets, not included in that report, sell roughly 2 million units per year, including older convertible slates, said Gartner's Taipei-based principal analyst Tracy Tsai.

Gigabyte, not a household name in many developed markets, will sell tablets and notebook computers through B2C e-commerce channels to cut retail costs, Ma said.

But the tablets are more likely to gain a following in developing markets, said Michael Clendenin, managing director of RedTech Advisors in Shanghai.

"In developed markets they don't have much recognition among consumers and I don't think they're going to spend a lot of money on marketing," Clendenin said.

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