ViewSonic launches Windows/Android hybrid tablet

ViewSonic ViewPad 10ViewSonic will juggle the consumer and business worlds with the upcoming launch of its ViewPad 10 tablet device that dual-boots in both Windows 7 and Android.

The ViewPad 10 is the flagship of the company’s new tablet lineup, and will run both Windows 7 Home Premium and Android 1.6, with the ability to switch back and forth between the two platforms. Adam Hanin, vice president of marketing for ViewSonic Americas, said the company sees the ViewPad 10 as primarily a Windows device, with the added perk of being able to boot into Android for a more consumer experience when the workday is done.

“It’s optimized for Windows and mobility – we feel this is a perfect product for people who want to take their full desktop experience wherever they go, running PowerPoint and Excel on a device that’s sleek, sexy and less bulky than a netbook or notebook,” Hanin said. “Then when they’re done with productivity, they can switch over to Android and use all the apps available on that platform.”

The ViewPad 10 will include one GB of RAM and a 16 GB SSD, as well as a microSD expansion slot for additional document and media storage. The unit also offers a 1.3 megapixel front-facing Webcam for videoconferencing. Hanin said ViewSonic sees it as both a VAR and retail channel product, following the consumerization of IT, particularly around mobile devices, into what he describes as the “B2BC” (business to business/consumer) market – a device that may be intended for business users, but may be chosen because of user preference.

Hanin said the ViewPad 10 is running the older Android 1.6 operating system because of difficulties getting newer versions of Android on the Intel Atom processors that run the tablet. Since the company is positioning the 10-inch tablet as primarily a Windows machine that also has the ability to run Windows, “if there’s going to be a tradeoff, I’d rather have it on the Android side,” he said.

The ViewPad 10 includes WiFi connectivity and does not include 3G data out of the box, but does include USB ports to allow companies to add wireless capabilities. The ViewPad 10 is slated to hit the market in the first quarter of 2011 with a price tag around $629 (U.S.).

Joining the ViewPad 10 is its seven-inch little sibling, the ViewPad 7, an Android 2.2-based Tablet that includes 3G and WiFi connectivity, 512 MB or RAM and support for microSD expansion up to 32 GB. The unit boasts an iPad-like 10 hours of life.

ViewSonic's ViewPad 7

The ViewPad 7 is a lot less business-centric, and Hanin said the company has focused on “the ultimate in customization and personalization” with the tablet, suggesting a more consumer-like experience. It also features full phone functionality in addition to its data connectivity options.

Distribution plans for the ViewPad 7 are still in the works, but Hanin expects a mix of channel, retail and wireless carrier. In Canada, he said, the company is “very close” to having a carrier relationship in place, but if it does not, the ViewPad 7 will ship factory unlocked. The ViewPad 7 will ship in November or December with a $479 (U.S.) suggested price tag.

Because the ViewPad 10 will feature Windows, Hanin said he expects to see more IT participation in the purchase and administration of the devices when compared to the more gadget-like ViewPad 7. Therefore, expect it to be a bigger VAR play than its smaller cousin.

“It’s all about understanding customer needs. When a customer says ‘We need laptops,’ ‘We need netbooks,’ it’s not enough to say ‘Here are my A, B, C and D choices,” Hanin said. “Find out what they’re going to do with them, how they’re going to use them, and what fits their need the best. Many times, that may by the ViewPad 10.”

And while some of its competitors in the tablet space – market juggernaut Apple most notably – may just be showing signs of developing its channel strategy for tablets now, ViewSonic’s are clear from the get-go. The company sees both tablets as a potential play in both the retail and VAR channels. He acknowledged that channel partners are going to face “a frenzy of tablets coming into the channel” in the coming months, but said the company’s background with solution providers should prove a differentiator.

“We’re a company that lives and breathes our channel partners. If they aren’t successful, we aren’t successful,” Hanin said. “Look at not only the product but the company providing it, the company’s commitment to the channel. That alone will help channel partners decide which products they want to stand behind and offer to their customers.”

Hanin described the two tablets as “foundational products” for the ViewPad line, and suggested there will be more members of the family to come.

“We’re committed to the marketplace and we’re working very closely with the major players to build and maintain a leadership position in the tablet space,” he said.