ASUSTek Computer's new Eee Tablet, one of two versionsLooking to stir up business in a soft economy, Intel (INTC) and netbook pioneer ASUSTek Computer are turning their attention to tablet computers.

ASUSTek unveiled two versions of its Eee Tablet on Monday at the mega-computer trade show Computex in Taipei, Taiwan. And following close behind, chipmaker Intel also debuted its tablet plans at Computex on Tuesday. Intel is planning to release a version of its low-power Atom chip that specifically targets tablet and netbook computers, codenamed "Oak Trail."

The Re-Embrace of Tablet Computing

The moves by ASUSTek and Intel come just as the computer industry is re-embracing the notion of tablet computers and is jumping aboard before Apple (AAPL) lays claim to a major slice of the market with its recently introduced iPad. Nearly two decades ago, the computer industry was toying with the concept of pen computers, an early form of tablet computers. Since then, Amazon.com (AMZN) popularized the concept of eBooks with its Kindle eReader, followed by others such as Barnes & Noble's (BKS) Nook and a host of tablet makers.

ASUSTek, which operates under the brand name ASUS, is looking to claim its own slice of the tablet action with its Eee Pad EP121 and EP101TC models. The tablets will both feature a 2450 dpi touch screen, a built-in 2 megapixel camera and USB or Micro SD hookups for syncing with a PC or notebook computer.

Fourth-Quarter Launch

The 10-inch EP101TC is expected to ship in the fourth quarter, while the 12-inch EP121 is slated for an early first-quarter launch. Although the pricing hasn't yet been released, the company expects to announce those figures later this week, says Gary Key, an ASUS spokesman.

Intel, meanwhile, plans to market the tablet version of its Atom processor in early 2011. This system-on-a-chip Atom platform aims to slice power consumption by 50% when using full HD-video playback on tablets and netbooks. Acer (ACEIF) will embed the chips in its tablets and netbooks running the open-source software MeeGo.

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