Acer has taken the wraps off a range of new tablet devices and a content platform as part of an ambitious effort to rival Apple’s iPad and capture a good portion of this still nascent market. The new lineup includes a 4.8-inch "smartphone with the soul of a tablet," 7 and 10-inch Android tablets, a 10-inch Windows-based variant, and a unique dual touch screen hybrid between laptop and tablet. Here's a quick rundown of the key features disclosed so far:
Scheduled to debut early 2011, the Iconia is similar in concept to the Toshiba Libretto unveiled a few months ago but with larger 14-inch displays capable of a 1366x768 pixel resolution and beefier hardware under the hood. It will have an Intel Core i5 CPU, Intel graphics, up to 4GB of RAM, up to 750GB of storage, VGA and HDMI out, 802.11n, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0, dual 1.3MP cameras, integrated 3G, gigabit Ethernet, two USB 2.0, one USB 3.0, and Windows 7 Home Premium.
Battery life is said to be rather disappointing at a mere 2.5 to 3 hours, but that's to be expected when you've got a pair of bright displays and only a 4-cell battery to run the show. The bottom display acts as a full screen keyboard or it can adapt whatever task you're doing at the time. Placing five fingers on this screen will bring up what Acer calls the Ring interface, which lets you control media applications, such as music and video, or launch the virtual keyboard.
Acer has customized the interface and applications to make it easy for gesture-based control using two screens and plans to release a software development kit for developers to bring their own applications to the form factor. Acer acknowledged it would take time to build an audience for a device based on such a different concept, so initially they are targeting early adopters. According to FastCompany, the Iconia will see a mid-January debut for around $2,300.
Next up are the 10.1- and 7-inch Android tablets. According to reports, they'll both run the upcoming Honeycomb release, which is expected early next year, and will boast integrated Wi-Fi and 3G. The larger unit is said to have a dual-core Tegra processor, HDMI output and native 1280x800 (16:10) resolution, 5-megapixel rear camera plus a front-facing camera for video calling, a ten-point multi-touch system and an inbuilt Gyroscope for gaming purposes.
The 7-incher is mostly identical, save for the screen size and gyroscope. It will feature the same resolution, Flash 10.1 support, DLNA technology and Acer’s own UI layered on top of Android. Availability for both of these is set for April 2011. The 10-inch Windows 7 variant will arrive in February. Details are scarce for this one but reports say it will run on the next-generation AMD platform, and comes with a keyboard docking station, essentially turning it into a detachable laptop.
As for Acer’s yet-to-be-named smartphone, this 4.8-inch behemoth rocks a 1024 x 480 pixel resolution display, 1GHZ processor, 8MP rear camera with LED flash and a 2MP unit on the front for video conferencing, support for Flash 10.1, Bluetooth 3.0, HSPA+14.4 connectivity, six-axis gyroscope and accelerometer, and a nameless build of Android (Gingebread perhaps?). The idea behind this device is very similar to what the Dell Streak is trying to achieve, as it is being touted to be a smartphone and a tablet all rolled into one. Expect a launch in April 2011.
Acer Alive and Clear.fi
Last but not least, Acer hopes part of the appeal of its new tablet and smartphone lineup will be their ability to seamlessly share files with the new Clear.fi system and download apps or other media content from the Alive platform. The latter is Acer’s iTunes equivalent, while the former is a cloud-based system designed to detect other Clear.fi-enabed devices connected to a wireless home network, and allow multi-format content to be shared across those devices.
Some of that content will come from Acer’s new Alive store, which will include free and paid content for most devices and operating systems. A variety of partners will be providing content which will be segmented into five areas, including Listen, for music, audiobooks, radio programs, podcasts and others types of audio entertainment; Watch, for movies, TV programs and channels, and videos; Read, for e-books, e-magazines and e-newspapers; and Play, for games.
Users in the UK and Italy will be getting first access next month, followed by a more thorough rollout across all new Acer devices and other markets during the first quarter of next year.