Asustek’s flagship Eee Pad Transformer Prime tablet-meets-notebook gizmo lands this month starting at $499 and will be upgradeable to Ice Cream Sandwich.

Asustek Computer, a computer and consumer electronics maker headquartered in Taipei, Taiwan, wants to beat Samsung in tablets by this time next year. Asian trade publication DigiTimes reported Tuesday that the company’s shipment targets for 2012 include at least three million tablets, “with the company internally expecting the volume to reach six million units” (1.8 million units projected in 2011). That should be enough, the publication speculated, to surpass Samsung which stopped divulging tablet and smartphone sales back in July citing competitive pressure from Apple.

Tablet PCs will reach at least three million units with the company internally expecting the volume to reach six million units, surpassing Samsung Electronics.

Asustek also expects to ship 23.8 million notebooks and netbooks next year, surpassing Dell and challenging the third largest notebook vendor worldwide. The company already beat Dell and Acer in China in terms of market share and files as the largest individual buyer of Nvidia chips. Whether or not their New Year’s resolution concerning tablets is just wishful thinking or based on realistic expectations remains to be seen. What’s clear to everyone is that the market for non-Apple tablets is becoming an increasingly tricky business.

The arrival of the $199 Kindle Fire tablet that Amazon sells at a loss changed market dynamics. The Amazon tablet has certainly dashed hopes for a lot of brands which used to hope that they would be able to make a quick buck on Android tablets with very little differentiation. As Apple continues to cling to its position as the cream of the crop of the tablet world, Amazon is attacking the market on the low-end, leaving little room for other Android tablet makers to differentiate. According to DigiTimes Research, branded tablet PC shipments are poised to grow 60 percent in 2012 to reach 95.1 million units.

Asustek is one of the rare vendors that invest significant resources into engineering, research and development and design. As a result of this forward-thinking strategy, Asustek’s products today stand out in the crowded tablet space. Take, for example, the Eee Pad Transformer Prime, a device combining a tablet and a scaled-down notebook computer. The original  Transformer tablet was well received, even though sales haven’t been stellar. With the upcoming Prime model, the company is hoping to achieve greater penetration. The device packs in a 10-inch Super IPS+ display, a 10-hour battery and a powerful Tegra 3 quad-core chip from Nvidia. It ships later this month starting at $499 and will be upgradeable to Ice Cream Sandwich by the year’s end.

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