Print 36 comment(s) - last by Cheesew1z69.. on Mar 31 at 11:14 AM

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, 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

Comments     Threshold

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RE: done
By Cheesew1z69 on 3/28/2012 6:11:06 PM , Rating: 1
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
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'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...

"Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town." -- Charlie Miller

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