Apple’s product catalogue is as minimalist as the company’s hardware designs. While there’s more than enough variation, each range is neatly stripped-back. You won’t feel overwhelmed by choice.
Asus on the other hand has a device to fill every conceivable market niche. Actually, the company goes further, it fills niches most of us haven’t considered.
As I moved around the room at Asus’ Auckland show and tell session earlier this week, I was struck at how many ways the company’s engineers have sliced and diced the computer format.
There was a large screen tablet which doubles as an all-in-one PC. There were Ultrabooks with and without touch screens. More conventional laptops in both formats. Laptops which convert to tablets, another laptop-like device with two screens that acts as a tablet when the lid closes.
I’m not finished yet. Asus showed the seven-inch FonePad, which sits somewhere between large smartphone and small tablet. There were Windows 8 devices, Windows RT devices and Android devices.
One of the devices looked like an unbranded Microsoft Surface, other designs looked vaguely familiar. Another was the spitting image of a Google Nexus – just to make sure we saw the resemblance Asus had the original on display too.
The close resemblance between Asus kit and familiar devices isn’t that surprising, Asus’ factories make gear for other brands by the container load.
Asus Transformer AiO – the large screen tablet that doubles as an all-in-one – was the most eccentric device on show. It can switch between being a Windows 8 desktop and an Android tablet. Asus expects to sell it to families as a versatile home computer. To me it looks like the kind of device that will either quickly bomb or take off.
In fact, the same can be said of a number of Asus devices. Wacky ideas can fly, especially at the moment when hardware makers throw dozens of formats at the market to see what sells. I’m sure some of them will and Asus’ winners might not be the more conservative designs.
And that’s what impresses me about Asus. The company isn’t frightened of playing with the computer format. It is the engineering equivalent of thinking out loud and the complete opposite of Apple. That’s not a bad thing.