Asustek introducing hybrid phone-tablet device

The combination tablet and phone may compete with the Dell Streak

Asustek Computer will introduce a new device next week combining the features of a phone and a tablet PC, making it a potential rival to the Dell Streak and possibly heralding more such devices, the company and analysts said on Tuesday.

The Taiwanese PC maker posted a teaser on Facebook asking the question "pad or phone?" about its device to be unveiled on Monday ahead of the annual Computex show in Taipei.

"I'm guessing it will be something of the order of a tablet merged with a phone," company spokesman David Chang aid. However, he declined to give specifications of the new hardware.

The company released its first tablet, the Eee Pad Transformer, in March.

Computex, a popular venue for new hardware launches, is expected to bring together 37,000 buyers and 1,800 exhibitors from next Tuesday through June 4. Tablets will be a dominant theme of the 2011 show.

Asustek may be designing a hybrid to stand out in the increasingly crowded non-Apple tablet market, said Peter Lin, a Taipei-based analyst with IHS iSuppli. It would be in the same league as the Dell Streak, a 5-inch tablet that runs on Google's Android 2.2 OS and can make calls, he said.

Users may find that size awkward, Lin said. "It sounds a bit weird," he said. "For a phone to be five inches, that's already pretty big, but for a tablet that's a bit small."

But all major PC makers are designing rival hybrids, said Helen Chiang, Taiwan research manager with IDC. Something in the seven-inch range will be welcome as it could fit snugly into a user's pants pocket, she said. "Mobility is very important for men, because they don't carry big bags," Chiang said.

Asustek unveiled four lines of tablets in January. Analysts say it's unclear whether the hybrid would match one of those or represent a new model.

Market research firm Gartner has forecast that iPad sales will reach 48 million this year, with tablets running on iOS totaling 68.7 percent of shipments.

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