Asus CEO Jerry Shen just let a big cat out of the bag: the company's much-rumored Padphone concept, which pairs a standard Android smartphone with a portable tablet dock, will be coming to market in February of next year. The CEO gave the news to DigiTimes, and in conjunction with a leaked internal presentation, the combination device is solidly on its way to a Q1 2012 release. No pricing or availability details were forthcoming, and there's no telling which markets and/or carriers will have access to the device.
The Padfone device is exciting in a lot of ways. Obviously the allure of having a single device fit both the smartphone and tablet form factors is intriguing, and with Ice Cream Sandwich's scalable interface, it's entirely possible. Asus has committed to bringing ICS to its current like of tablets, and the upcoming Transformer Prime should be getting it either at launch or shortly thereafter. By February the Padfone should be more than ready for the new software.
Shen mentions not one, but two new tablets for February, so what's the extra model? DigiTimes speculates that a 7-inch Transformer could be on the way, but that doesn't make a lot of sense - typing on a 7-inch keyboard wouldn't be much better than on the tablet itself. On the other hand, there's plenty of room in Asus' lineup for a smaller, cheaper tablet to compete with the mass of ICS tablets that will be coming out of China and Taiwan once Ice Cream Sandwich is open-sourced. A more typical $250-300 7-inch tablet, like the Galaxy Tab 7.7 with a more economical design, could sell well. We'll just have to wait and see.