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Asus hopes "awesome" update, court victory will please customers, revive sales

ASUSTek Computer Inc. (TPE:2357) gained the enviable position of having its Tegra 3-powered Transformer Prime -- a powerful keyboard dock enabled Android tablet design --become the official flagship tablet of Google Inc.'s (GOOGAndroid 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich mobile operating system.  Reviews of the tablet were generally positive, however, the hybrid notebook-cum-tablet has been plagued with problems ever since.  

I. Transformer Prime -- the Turnaround

Despite strong preorders, early purchasers were met with a host of frustrations, including GPS and Wi-Fi issues.  The GPS was reportedly so flaky that it bordered on uselessness.  Enthusiasts were also outraged that the tablet featured a locked bootloader.  ASUS, for its part, did its best to address these issues.  In January -- roughly a month after launch -- it delivered an over the air update (Firmware V9.4.2.7) to fix the Wi-Fi and GPS issues, along with other minor performance tweaks.  And in February it caved and released a bootloader unlock tool [available here].

Now the company continues to try to mend broken fences.  News just hit yesterday that a judge sided with ASUS, throwing out a lawsuit bought by Hasbro, Inc. (HAS), owners of the Transformers (think 80s cartoon, Michael Bay) franchise.

Transformer Prime, display

Hasbro had alleged "trademark confusion", pointing to the fact that in the Transformers film franchise, robots disguised themselves in the shape of consumer electronics, including a ThinkPad from Lenovo Group, Ltd. (HKG:0992).

But U.S. District Court of the Central District of California, federal judge Judge Philip Gutierrez struck down Hasbro's request of a preliminary injunction in a 25-page-ruling.  While acknowledging the strength of Hasbro's "Transformer" and "Transformer Prime" trademarks, he chastised Hasbro, saying that "transformer" was an accurate description of the Asus notebook-cum-tablet hybrid and that ASUS made no attempt to sell its product based on associations to the fictional robot franchise (although news media did do this -- yep, that includes us).  

Clearly a Transformers fan, he started his explanation of why the suit was unfair, stating, "The Autobots are led by the virtuous Optimus Prime character, while the Decepticons follow the powerful Megatron. According to Hasbro, Optimus Prime is intended to epitomize honor, duty, leadership, and freedom."


While the case will still go to trial, the judge's statements cast serious doubt on Hasbro's chances.

II. Update Also in Store

Now ASUS has delivered some more good news.  It promises an "awesome" update for the Transformer Prime.  
 
While the teaser posted to the company's official Facebook page offered no details of what was so "awesome" about this firmware drop, a translation of an "accidental" post to the company's Swedish Facebook page provided more potential details of the coming update.

Reportedly V9.4.2.21, the update is expected to contain new HDMI output modes, a new power profile, support for USB to LAN cable accessories, support for Ad hoc Wi-Fi connections, configurable unread email notifications from the lock screen, and more.  The update reportedly will land on March 30, according to talk in the XDA Developers forums [1][2].

III. ASUSTek Inexplicably Poor Sales

The update raises the question of whether all this good news will be enough to revive the hype train of the Transformer Prime.  While ASUS fixed most of the outstanding issues of the device and continues to add nice features to the device, it's still struggling with the deflation of its initial hype and with trying to shed a distinction that every Android device-maker dreads -- "buggy".

And a bigger question is whether now-confirmed reports of poor sales are more than just backlash against the device's problems or indicative of deeper production issues.

Sales figures for the Transformer Prime were released in the court decision, stating that the company had delivered --as of Feb. 24 -- only 2,000 preorders, and another 80,000 units to retailers worldwide.  If those figures sound bad, it's because they are. (Granted, this was a month ago, but it seems unlikely things have changed substantially.)

(The original piece indicated that the Tegra 3 was built on Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Comp., Ltd. (TPE:2330) problem plagued 28 nm node -- this is incorrect, the Tegra 3 is built on the 40 nm process, which has also had past issues.)

It's unclear where Asus's issues in its supply chain lie, given that it's using a mature 40 nm SoC and there doesn't seem to be anything particularly unique about the rest of its components.

Recalling that Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN) in December was reportedly cancelling U.S. pre-orders on Transformer Prime placed in November, it seems clear there is some issue, the compelling question is what that issue is.

In short, the good times are rolling for current Transformer Prime owners who are enjoying a steady stream of updates to the Prime, making their device a much more solid experience.  

Things are not so merry for Asus.  The company's tablet is seeing a perfect storm of bad -- unable to keep up with demand.  That storm is far from over and ASUSTek is surely bemoaning the success of rival Apple, Inc. (AAPL) whose third generation iPad tablet set preorder records selling and shipping millions of units.

While the Transformer Prime is no iPad, it perhaps could have seen modest sales like the original Transformer, which had issues of its own.  Despite those issues the predecessor in Summer 2011 was shipping 400,000 units a month, thanks in part to abundant supply of its Tegra 2 SoC, which was produced on a mature 40 nm process.  Let's just say 400,000 per month is a whole lot better than 82,000 total in three months.

The good news, at least, is that the first generation Transformer suffered from similar component shortages, which limited production to 10,000 a month, but Asus was able to eventually remedy the situation and crank up production.  Let's hope for competition's sake that it pulls off a similar accomplishment with the Transformer Prime.

Source: Scribd



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done
By Nortel on 3/28/2012 6:15:27 PM , Rating: 1
82k units shipped vs 3 million "new iPad's" sold. It's pretty plain to see consumers know what they want.




RE: done
By Cheesew1z69 on 3/28/2012 6:11:06 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
It's pretty plain to see consumers know what they want.
Yes it is, they want what Apple tells them they want. Pretty damn plain to see.


RE: done
By Tony Swash on 3/29/2012 11:26:08 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
quote:
It's pretty plain to see consumers know what they want.
Yes it is, they want what Apple tells them they want. Pretty damn plain to see.


A word of caution. One should avoid any explanation of the success or failure of a product, particularly those related to electronic and computing, that is based on the notion that the purchasing preferences of tens of millions of people are wrong, mistaken or somehow illegitimate. It's a line of thought that leads no where and will cause you to misunderstand how and why the world is developing the way it is, and will cause you immense frustration in the longer run.

I made a similar error back in the 1990s when much to my surprise, irritation and stupefaction Windows became the overwhelmingly dominant force in computing. I was aghast that an OS that was so obviously inferior, in my opinion, to the Macintosh, could triumph. How could anything so ugly and tacky win? How could such a thing happen? For a long while I worked on various theories that boiled down to the fact that it had all been some sort of terrible mistake, that millions of people and thousands of businesses had got it wrong, that they had been brainwashed by Microsoft's razzamatazz, that if only they could be convinced with the 'facts' they would all change there mind. Ultimately such thinking led me nowhere and explained nothing. Once I finally accepted that those millions of people and thousands of businesses had made rational decisions based on reasonable criteria I could once again get back into touch with reality and see the tech world for what it really was. I could start to explore the perfectly rational reasons why people and companies had chosen Windows.

So what you have to do is to sit down and try to work out why tens of millions of people make perfectly sensible and reasonable decisions when they choose to buy Apple products. Once you can answer that question you will find that there is much about the world that makes greater sense.

Here is a clue. If you find yourself starting to think about the problem with any the following notions then you have already lost your way and need to restart: 'stupid consumers' 'fooled by Apple marketing', 'media hype', 'Apple lock in', 'trendy followers of fashion', 'sheeple', etc, etc.

Good luck.


RE: done
By Cheesew1z69 on 3/29/2012 3:38:26 PM , Rating: 2
A word of caution, I don't care about your obviously biased opinions anymore.


RE: done
By Veero on 3/30/2012 11:44:08 AM , Rating: 2
Biased? He basically said open your eyes and try to look at this objectivly instead of just slapping on a one sentence argument that is "obviously biased".

If you can't come up with a proper rebuttal to a reasonable statement, then don't bother with it at all.


RE: done
By Cheesew1z69 on 3/30/2012 2:07:21 PM , Rating: 2
Yes....BIASED...it's all OVER DT. Not hard to miss it.


RE: done
By Veero on 3/30/2012 4:05:01 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, there are biased articles all over the internet, including DT. Typically, intelligent people realize this and attempt to read between the lines to make what some people refer to as "your own opinion". A revolutionary concept for you I'm sure, but you should try it out sometime.

Also, you seem upset over biased opinions, when clearly your own opinion is biased...


RE: done
By Cheesew1z69 on 3/30/2012 8:11:05 PM , Rating: 2
Right, my opinion is biased, because it obviously is clear to you, yet, I am not the one who defends 1 company and 1 company only on here, every single day...

Yet, I am somehow biased...LOLLOL...

Oh, the humor of some of you people...


RE: done
By KamikaZee on 3/29/2012 8:42:40 AM , Rating: 2
Technically that's true. BUT, prime's are still sold out everywhere, so out of these 80k units shipped, probably all sold as well.
Now with ipad3 out and pad infinity announced however, the prime time (hoho) is over :/


RE: done
By Cheesew1z69 on 3/29/2012 3:46:16 PM , Rating: 2
And the original was sold out for the longest time as well.


Where did all the comments go?
By Cheesew1z69 on 3/28/2012 4:59:02 PM , Rating: 2
What the hell?




RE: Where did all the comments go?
By JasonMick (blog) on 3/28/2012 5:02:08 PM , Rating: 3
I reposted this a new/retitled article, with the fix about 28 nm/Tegra 3 error, considering that was a pretty serious error.

I put a note, commenting on my mistake, I just figured an amended repost would be best to avoid the discussion fixating on that, when there's interesting issues at hand to discuss.

If you want to complain, you can still complain, of course, but this way, hopefully discussion will turn to the matter at hand. :)

Have it.


RE: Where did all the comments go?
By Cheesew1z69 on 3/28/2012 6:09:18 PM , Rating: 2
Don't matter to me, I was just curious :o


RE: Where did all the comments go?
By JasonMick (blog) on 3/28/2012 7:44:14 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
Don't matter to me, I was just curious :o

No it was a fair question. 98+ percent of the time when you guys point out errors to me I just correct it inline, typically noting my mistake with slashed text or a small note.

Very rarely I will take down and repost and article, if I feel the discussion was fixated around a foolish and correctable error.

Ultimately the comments in such a case served their purpose -- fixing the error -- but there's no need to wallow in a well of negativity after the issue is fixed... that's my perspective at least. :)


By GuinnessKMF on 3/29/2012 11:01:30 AM , Rating: 2
Wallowing in a well of negativity is what the internet is all about.

This would be a good opportunity to suggest improvements on the commenting system. I'm assuming it's some out of the box solution but the comment system (and this small community) is what makes these articles for me, otherwise I'd just go to a "bigger" tech blog.

Obviously the usual requests for being able to edit a post, but relevant to this would be an option to "report an error", and then when it's fixed, the article poster can mark it as so, collapsing the discussion in some color other than red, to designate it's not worth reading but not because of stupidity (does anyone not expand those, if I see a collapsed post I always have to see what was so bad it warranted the -1).

That way people can report errors, and threads can be properly ignored as such.


RE: Where did all the comments go?
By aebiv on 3/28/2012 6:33:01 PM , Rating: 2
What issues other than supply were there with the original? I was one of the first adopters of it and never had an issue. Know quite a few other people with them, and no issues to speak of either.

Just curious is all :)


By JasonMick (blog) on 3/28/2012 7:33:13 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
What issues other than supply were there with the original? I was one of the first adopters of it and never had an issue. Know quite a few other people with them, and no issues to speak of either.

Just curious is all :)

"Issues" is somewhat subjective term, but aside from supply, people complained of general slowness, Wi-Fi issues, and an issue with some users batteries not charging properly when docked. As with the 'Prime problems, Asus fixed most of these with an update, so you might not have noticed them if you didn't bump into them right away. :)

The latter couple issues (Wi-Fi and dock charging) can be verified by a peak @ the firmware release logs...


They completely blew the Christmas season.
By Tomash on 3/28/2012 7:20:55 PM , Rating: 2
The device was pretty much out of stock all of December.




By JasonMick (blog) on 3/28/2012 7:41:29 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The device was pretty much out of stock all of December.

Ya blew it! /tim and eric


RE: They completely blew the Christmas season.
By Jedi2155 on 3/29/2012 2:28:05 AM , Rating: 2
I bought a 32 GB, then sold it hoping to hold out for a 64 GB model that never materialized. Then canceled my pre-order because they took too long and my winter school break was over. So now I wait for the Transformer Prime Infinity/SG Tab 2, or screw it all and go Apple.


By ShaolinSoccer on 3/29/2012 10:12:24 AM , Rating: 2
Even though I hate Apple, the iPad3 is quite nice...


By random2 on 3/30/2012 12:02:05 AM , Rating: 2
Be vewy vewy cawuful. The dock side is vewy vewy cwose. HA ha ha ha.


By EasyC on 3/30/2012 8:00:16 AM , Rating: 3
It's nothing to write home about. I have one. Figured it would be a good tablet to hold me over until the Asus Infinity comes out. I don't really have many positive things to say about it, really.

Yea it's got "retina" display, but that's really only useful for photos and web pages. Watching netflix on it produces a nearly identical viewing area to my old Galaxy Tab 8.9. I mean, about a millimeter difference in viewing area for movies, even though it's got .8 inches more screen real estate. Oh and the colors are a bit more washed out than the GT8.9. It feels thicker and heavier too. Either way, I'm probably going to sell it or return it. It's certainly not worth the money.


Not even available
By jimbojimbo on 3/28/2012 7:37:13 PM , Rating: 2
Every time I checked Amazon or Newegg it was out of stock so I wasn't even able to buy one! Now months later I'm waiting for something else since new tablets are right around the corner. How can they make record sales numbers if key big stores don't have any in stock?




RE: Not even available
By Netscorer on 3/29/2012 10:43:45 AM , Rating: 2
ASUS dropped the ball not once but twice in a row now. First, there was nowhere to be found original Transformer, now the improved model that was apparently all 'dog and pony show' from ASUS as there was no stock anywhere to be found. And who wants to bet now that the same fate will wait for the Transformer Infinity when it is released?

No wonder people flock to IPad. It's easy to be the best tablet around when there is no competition.


RE: Not even available
By theapparition on 3/29/2012 1:34:49 PM , Rating: 2
Going to have to agree completely. I was casually looking for a Prime to replace my Xoom.

The article seems to imply the Transformer Prime didn't sell. When in fact, there's none in the supply chain to buy. Couple that with the iPad3 release and upcoming tablet models, and you have something that is incredibly hard to buy and is going to eclipsed soon by competing models and even it's own next gen products.

Asus has a long history of making high volume products. I don't understand how they could've botched both their tablet releases like this.


RE: Not even available
By Cheesew1z69 on 3/30/2012 2:09:14 PM , Rating: 2
No where to be found because it was SOLD OUT for the longest time...


¦
By BabelHuber on 3/29/2012 5:55:44 AM , Rating: 2
I bough my TF Prime 3 weeks ago in Germany. It was really hard to get:

Online availibility is a joke over here, so I had to call about 20 stores to find one which had it in stock.

One sales guy told me they get some TF Primes 2-3 times a week, but that they are sold within hours.

He also said that this is the first Android Tablet they got that could compete with the iPad sales-wise, if they had enough supply.

So for me it seems that Asus has some manufacturing problems or that Asus has underestimated the demand.

The tablet runs flawlessly, BTW. Also, after hooking it up to the TV via HDMI, I was really surprised how good Riptide and Shadowgun are looking and how fluid they are running - I hadn't expected such a fantastic experience!

Now what I need next is some FPS-game that can be controlled via keyboard and mouse. I dyslike gamepads for FPS-games, really!

But I haven't found one so far, even Kwaak3 (a Quake3-port) doesn't support this feature.

But apart from this, I'm more than satisfied.




RE: ¦
By KamikaZee on 3/29/2012 8:40:32 AM , Rating: 2
Same story, I tried to get one but they never were in stock (and when they were it was by greedy re-sellers with 200€+ markup).
So yea, definitely something wrong in the supply chain, too bad, it was the only tablet that looked like it could rival the ipad 2.
Now with the pad infinity and the ipad 3 out, the prime lost all momentum.


Not surprising...
By carage on 3/30/2012 10:29:09 PM , Rating: 2
3 reasons why I would not buy the TF201...
1. The GPS/WIFI debacle, the firmware fix could only alleviate the problem but not resolve it.
2. Full HD tablets are coming soon...
3. Tegra 3 seems to be too hyped up, doesn't seem to be that far above the competition.




RE: Not surprising...
By Cheesew1z69 on 3/31/2012 11:14:14 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, it is totally hyped up...LOL


Roadmaps and rumours
By bennyg on 3/29/2012 7:19:41 AM , Rating: 3
I didn't buy one because of the simple reason there were rumours (now confirmed) a 1920x1200 res model is coming later this year

And having used WUXGA/1080p 15" laptops for the last 5 years I'm addicted to good high DPI displays :)




By JasonMick (blog) on 3/28/2012 7:41:04 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Let's see retro troll spinning this against RIM with his usual "stock price is everything" stuff
The Playbook is a decent piece of hardware. I think RIM missed the mark a bit releasing a 7-inch, but I'd say it's by no means out of the race.

Is 400k "weak" sales? Arguably yes, although I would reserve the word "abysmal" for sales #s like the Xoom and Transformer Prime (thus far) have posted. Weak sales are different than non-existent sales.

Weak sales mean you're still in the game.

The majority of Android tablet makers, Windows tablet makers, and RIM have had "weak" sales. RIM is definitely towards the front of this pack in terms of sales, though.

Samsung and Amazon have thus far been the only ones to give real chase to Apple. Samsung largely succeeded as its products were very polished (almost iPad like! *_^), whilst Amazon success came largely due to the price and its prominent position as a top retailer.

Going ahead I would forsee traditional players like Dell and HP having strong prospects of sales success with Windows 8. At the same time, I see RIM expanding its tablet to cater towards business users -- a niche that Apple and Windows 8 are underexploiting.

In that regard RIM could do quite well, if it stays focused, releases a 10-inch tablet, and keeps pace with its competitors hardware-wise. I don't see it ever selling like the iPad, but if it sold like BlackBerries, I'm sure RIM couldn't complain too much.


Poor sales????????????
By room200 on 3/28/2012 9:58:07 PM , Rating: 2
The thing is pretty much out of stock EVERYWHERE!




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