When Deutsche Bank crunched some numbers and came up with a 100,000 sold figure for the Motorola Xoom's first month of sales, some pundits declared the device a flop and essentially used these low numbers as evidence that people want iPads specifically, not tablets as a general class of device.
For those of us who prefer competition to a one-horse race, the apparent low sales figures were troubling. I own an iPad and really like it, but I want there to be a healthy Android tablet market too. Having Google and Apple struggle to outdo each other would be great for consumers.
So when I heard that Asus sold out of their initial run of EEE Transformer tablets I was quite pleased. The device went on sale on April 6th in the UK and from the sounds of things, sold out even before all pre-orders were filled. Interested parties now have to wait until June to get theirs. Cnet UK has all the details or you can check out ASUS's Facebook page where they say initial demand has been far beyond their expectations. They don't say what their expectations were, of course.
In the Android world it feels like we're always taking three steps forward and two steps back. If Digitimes is to be believed, ASUS filled only half their pre-orders and shipped (are you ready for this) 100,000 units, same as the Xoom in its first month. Of course being constrained by supply and selling 100K is a lot different than having stock available and not being able to move it. Also this 100K figure is based on the UK alone. So I'm still choosing to see it as evidence that there's a consumer base out there that wants a tablet but doesn't want to buy into the Apple ecosystem.
No word on what impact this shortage might have on a North American launch date, but I can't imagine it's going to speed things up.
In the meantime, Engadget got their hands on a production model and did a full review, giving the Transformer a 7 out of 10 rating. The good news is that most of their cons are software based (unless you count the "highly reflective glass" that makes the tablet difficult to use outside). My take-away was that it has a better screen than the Xoom and the apps that work "right" are really snappy, but too many parts of the interface don't seem optimized yet and are a little bit laggy. The fact that some parts of the software work well indicate that the problem isn't one of overall power, but poorly developed software. The camera, and in particular shooting video, seemed specially buggy. Check out this sample:
You can of course read the entire review at Engadget, but I came away from it feeling like maybe it's a good thing if the tablet doesn't get to North America for a few more months. Hopefully by then Google will have done another optimization pass (or 3) on Honeycomb.
Still, it's encouraging that we're seeing reviews of actual shipping product, and it's good news for both ASUS and Google that demand for the Transformer is higher than expected. Hopefully we'll be seeing reviews of shipping versions of the Acer and Toshiba Android tablets in the next few weeks.
By the way, anyone spot the Galaxy Tab product placement on last week's "Fringe" episode? Lab Assistant Astrid handed Walter Bishop a Tab, telling him she'd downloaded "Zoom" (a children's show) for him. They made it look like pretty futuristic tech and did nothing to soothe my lust for an Android tablet of some kind.