Report: Via SoC to anchor $99-149 Asus tablet

Back in the day, Asus made motherboards based on Via chipsets. The PC market looks quite different now, and it seems the partnership is changing with the times. A report from Taiwan Economic News claims that Asus will use a Via processor in a new budget tablet. According to "industry sources," the unit will cost $99-149 and employ an SoC based on ARM’s Cortex-A9 CPU core. The SoC is likely WonderMedia’s Prizm WM8950, which has a single CPU core clocked at 1GHz combined with ARM’s Mali-400 GPU. (WonderMedia is a subsidiary of Via.)

Details are otherwise scarce, but it looks like the device will have a 7" screen. This cheap-and-cheerful tablet may not wash up on US shores, though. The unnamed device is reportedly destined for China early next year. Asus apparently thinks that’s a fertile market, because the initial shipment is supposed to be 2-3 million units. Interestingly, contract manufacturer Wistron is said to be building the device. Asus serves in a similar role making the Nexus 7 for Google.

While profit margins may be slim on uber-cheap tablets, the goal here seems to be volume. Asus intends to sell 12 million tablets in 2013, and moving lots of budget models may be the best way to reach that goal. Market observers cited by Taiwan Economic News suggests that Nexus 7 sales will total only 7-8 million units next year. Perhaps Asus doesn’t think its Transformer and VivoTab models can pick up the slack.

While this Via-based tablet may be a China exclusive, there certainly seems to be a lot of demand for budget tablets on this side of the Pacific. Plenty of folks have been asking me for advice on cheaper slates, including models that sell for a fair bit less than the $200 Nexus 7. I typically tell them the Nexus is the benchmark for budget devices, but I have to admit I’m curious about what sort of experience can be had for half the price.

Comments closed
    • LoneWolf15
    • 7 years ago

    And in other news, the product will be doomed by the somewhat broken and horribly supported video circuitry, whose supporting APIs/drivers will never mature beyond 60-70% bug-free over a period of 2-3 years.

    Nostradamus (aka LoneWolf) has spoken.

    • link626
    • 7 years ago

    Send it over here.

    I am willing to pay only $99 for basic wifi tablets.

      • Alexko
      • 7 years ago

      You might want to look into this, or something similar: [url<]http://www.the-digital-reader.com/2012/06/10/first-impressions-of-the-polaroid-pmid-702c/#.UMp0GDP2Avk[/url<] I've noticed adds for some €59 (~$77) 7-inch Polaroid tablet (perhaps this one) in the Parisian subway recently. I don't need more than very basic web browsing, so it's kind of tempting.

      • jdevers
      • 7 years ago

      [url<]http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=13140038[/url<]

    • stmok
    • 7 years ago

    [quote<]While profit margins may be slim on uber-cheap tablets, the goal here seems to be volume.[/quote<] That's because the business strategy is "Cost Leadership". Meaning you compete by offering products at a lower price than your competitors. You make up for it by manufacturing in high volume. In fact, this is what most businesses are doing when it comes to global competition! Competing on cost. China's primary economic strategy. The problem with this approach is... * You aren't unique to the consumer. => Especially in a sea of competition who are using the same strategy! * Reputation? What reputation? => Since you're competing on cost, you don't even consider quality!...Poor quality products garners poor reputation with consumers! * No brand loyalty. => Consumers will just go with someone else in a heartbeat...The one that offers a lower price than you! * If you compete on cost, you will subject yourself to the changing environment. => You won't be leading and innovating the market, the market will be forcing you to change. And the technology market never stands still! So this approach is inherently flawed in that it leaves you very vulnerable, as you are reacting to competitors! This is why you never see Chinese-brand products being innovative or of quality. In fact, America's greatest two weapons (global competitiveness) against China is [b<]Innovation[/b<] AND [b<]Quality Production[/b<]. This is why China is desperately copying all sorts of things, sending their undergraduates to Western universities (graduating approx 250,000 engineering students a year), and learning quality production processes by having Western companies manufacture over in their homeland! ...Yes Western business people, you're being played! You are being studied in order to be beaten in the long term! The proper strategy to compete with China is for the West to make quality products in their own home ground. (Grow prosperity of locals. Not China's locals!)...To specialize. To garner the reputation of quality, innovation, and service. China cannot compete with that. They know this. Some Westerners do. Most don't. China's strength is that they can produce a lot due to raw manpower available. One can generally counter that with automation...Which has a high initial cost, but a very low running cost over time. Robots don't need to sleep, eat, crap, take lunch breaks, go on strike, etc. They just need preventative maintenance and a human nearby to verify production quality is consistently high. To highlight what I mean, just look at Apple/Samsung/etc VS generic Chinese-brands.

      • brute
      • 7 years ago

      free flow of labor and with discrimination based on ethnic/racial background illegal, there’s nothing to stop them from learning from us in our own land. they will get these “secrets” regardless

        • stmok
        • 7 years ago

        To say something is a secret is to imply there is some magic formula. There isn’t. American manufacturing paradigms aren’t secrets.

        * America gave those paradigms to Japan after WWII in order to help them recover.

        * America forgets those very paradigms and Japan owns them in car manufacturing during 80s and 90s. They are now a powerful part of today’s American automotive market. eg: See Toyota. The foundations of their “Toyota Way” comes from America. That is fact.

        * After the Asian financial crisis of the 1990s, South Korean companies begin adopting those American paradigms from Japan. eg: See the incredible transformation of Samsung over time. (This is why their tablets, SSDs, etc are awesome.)

        * Today, American companies are re-adopting those American paradigms they had forgotten. This is in order to compete on a global level.

        SIDE NOTE: What’s wrong with America today?

        The culture has been butt-screwed by Left-Progressive/Modern-Liberal thinking. The seed was planted during the “Radical 60s”. Traditional values and motivations which have made America great, have been overtaken or outright destroyed by really stupid ideologies and thinking based on an unattainable Utopian ideal.

        * The standard of the Left is to have NO standard. Schools no longer produce students of achievement and thus, people with self-respect, self-discipline, and personal responsibility. It is now about nurturing self-esteem through garbage like Participation Awards. (Unions don’t help either, they have ridiculous conditions that result in schools not being able to fire an incompetent teacher or treating all teachers the same when some are far superior to others.) …And then people wonder why billions of taxpayer’s money are spent with little or no improvement in grades! Look at the kids that result from such a system! They can’t handle criticism over poor performance!

        * You can’t be honest and direct in order to do better, because of Political Correctness and special interest groups that actively push it. They will always use gender or race card in order to excuse incompetence. (Characters like those of MSNBC will ALWAYS use political correct cards in their discussions.)

        …Its funny how only white people can be racist in the Leftie’s minds. (As a Western Chinese, I can tell you we Chinese ARE racist and nothing is done by the Left-Progressives because they want “tolerance” in order to form their nonsensical global Utopia.)

        * The belief that one can spend their way out of debt…This idea doesn’t even make sense! If you’re in debt, you consolidate and cut spending down to bare essentials until you gain back a surplus. (I’m not surprised the Left-Progressives can’t handle this, as they have no concept of economics. Given they are feelings and emotional oriented in their ideals).

        See how the Public Education has been destroyed. The growing trend of homeschooling, vouchers, and lotteries to get into private schools in order to give a kid a fighting chance of having some semblance of a decent future. See how universities are filled with useless degrees like Women’s Studies, Gender Studies, Humanities, etc. Essentially, filled with those 60s activists who have now become professors in their useless fields. Destroying the minds of the American young with their thinking. The results speak for themselves: See those Occupy idiots on Youtube. (Most of these professors ARE useless. That’s why they stay in academics, sprouting their BS ideals that don’t work in real life. They have no real world experience because their field brings no value to the nation! Who is going to hire them? All their can do is lecture and write books/columns/blogs.)

        …What do you think China is doing? Their flooding Western universities with students in engineering, science, etc. The courses that result in producing useful stuff for a nation! They have more people doing these useful courses. Western countries have less. Think about what happens over time. They’re building up their technical base!

        You know something is wrong when the current President of the United States is praising its competitor like China…Compared to past Presidents like JFK or Reagan and how they treat America’s rivals during their Presidential terms. These past Presidents rallied the WHOLE NATION and led the country. It didn’t matter if it was the Space Race or the Cold War. They kicked butt…(Yes I know, the Democrats of JFK’s time is nothing like today’s Democrats.)

        My point is, USA is screwing up because it has skewed away from its values. There is no secret, magic formula. Its good-old fashion hard work done smartly. In a marathon, USA is slowing pace while China is picking up. Its not over, but USA can’t screw around any more.

          • Joe Miller
          • 7 years ago

          Are you going to senate with this speech? You mix right and wrong, not that it matters for candidates.

          • BobbinThreadbare
          • 7 years ago

          It’s all a genius plan, don’t you see? We make our own schools so bad the Chinese can’t learn anything from them. It’s brilliant!

      • moog
      • 7 years ago

      Confucius says Chinese engineer innovate when Asian woman learn to drive.

      • windwalker
      • 7 years ago

      [quote=”stmok”<]You make up for it by manufacturing in high volume.[/quote<] Wrong. The vast majority of these junky "products" are produced in significantly lower volume than their premium rivals. They make up for it by severely dropping quality and taking advantage of the greed and ignorance of millions of people that know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

    • Xenolith
    • 7 years ago

    I saw the name Via, and thought x86. Oops.

      • stmok
      • 7 years ago

      VIA makes money through selling ARM-based devices in Asia. (Most of it in niche markets in China).

      We sometimes see them power low cost, no-name/generic-brand tablets here in Australia.

      Regardless, I wouldn’t touch that crap with a 10 foot pole. (They’re often under-powered and don’t last very long.)

    • ludi
    • 7 years ago

    Given that they still need to pay for the ARM license, I’m wondering how cheap VIA could actually make them and really save Asus enough money to accommodate the price point. The iSuppli teardown of the 8GB Nexus7 pegged the SoC at $21 on a total BOM cost of $152, plus $7.50 for manufacturing.

    To get a target price in the $99-150 range, Asus would have to be cutting back on a lot more than just the chip, even if VIA was giving them away for free.

      • UberGerbil
      • 7 years ago

      There are various kinds of ARM licenses, and not all require a per-unit royalty.

        • Game_boy
        • 7 years ago

        Even the ones that do are generally on the order of cents per chip. ARM’s actual revenue is very low.

      • jdaven
      • 7 years ago

      Lol! How expensive do you think that license is?

        • ludi
        • 7 years ago

        I have no references, but I’m guessing it averages to a relatively small proportion of the overall cost per chip. How much do [i<]you[/i<] think it is?

          • willmore
          • 7 years ago

          It’s normally between 1 and 2 percent of chip cost if you use all ARM IP. FWIW, nVidia and Qualcom pay well less.

    • yokem55
    • 7 years ago

    [quote<]Plenty of folks have been asking me for advice on cheaper slates, including models that sell for a fair bit less than the $200 Nexus 7. I typically tell them the Nexus is the benchmark for budget devices, but I have to admit I'm curious about what sort of experience can be had for half the price.[/quote<] The answer, as always, is it depends. The SOC's and displays on Chinese market devices are getting quite good. Most now have fast Dual (and soon to be quad) core chips with decent gpus and IPS and IPS like displays with fairly high resolutions (7" 1280x800 & "Retina" 9.7" 2048x1536) can be had. The problems crop up though with the rest of the device integration. Often the manufacturers will really skimp on the battery, or have a really poor wifi antenna design, or the NAND is ridiculously slow, or the thermal design of the device isn't right and you end up with overheating problems. Then on the software support side the problems can be worse. The software support windows on cheap Chinese tabs is really, really short, at most a couple of months. Add to the fact that practically none of the manufacturers abide by the GPL and don't release kernel sources, even custom roms are hard to come by. Next the purchasing process is a mess. Sites like Pandawill are reasonably reliable, but even they will lie about availability and shipping times. I would only buy from a very select few Ali Express sellers as most are outright scammers. And you should assume that any warranty or return policy is worth the pixels they are written on. Now when all is said and done, a technically astute and adventurous person can get a decent product out of these things, at a substantial savings from western market devices, but it isn't a walk in the park...

    • MadManOriginal
    • 7 years ago

    Single Core 1GHz A9…uumm yeeeeah, I’m going to say it wouldn’t be the greatest experience, even with the Mali 400. I mean, *maybe* if the CPU were bumped up to 1.5-2GHz, or they have a crazy mutant A9 with twice the execution units and good memory bandwidth or something. Otherwise it will basically be like using a low-end to mid-range device from 2009. The only advantage I can see over the other cheap Chinese tablets is maybe build quality, screen quality, or battery life but we would have to wait and see on those.

    • MadManOriginal
    • 7 years ago

    Question – when people read the acronym ‘SoC’, do you pronounce it ‘sock’ in your head, or do you spell out the letters ‘SoC’?

    Personally, I’m a sock man.

      • dpaus
      • 7 years ago

      We know; SSK told us.

      • brute
      • 7 years ago

      i prefer stockings when no ones looking

      • dmjifn
      • 7 years ago

      I go with “ess oh see”.

      … though I usually follow it up with “kay ess – you just spoke spanish!”

        • kvndoom
        • 7 years ago

        Wow I hadn’t heard that joke referenced since my Spanish teacher told it to me in 9th or 10th grade. Funny lady, she was. 🙂

      • Deanjo
      • 7 years ago

      [quote<]Personally, I'm a sock man.[/quote<] When I hear "sock" I think of "socks" when dealing in computer lingo. [url<]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SOCKS[/url<]

      • Srsly_Bro
      • 7 years ago

      I prefer women’s hosiery when I’m watching MLP with SSK and Meadows.

    • jjj
    • 7 years ago

    A few days behind the news with this one.
    Asustek refutes rumors about adopting ARM platform from VIA – [url<]http://www.digitimes.com/news/a20121210PD219.html[/url<]

      • chuckula
      • 7 years ago

      I’m starting to buy into the end-of-the-world hype when Digitimes is the site that is [b<]discrediting[/b<] baseless rumors instead of being the source.

        • MadManOriginal
        • 7 years ago

        It’s not that they do one or the other…they just pull a Cheney and leak a rumor, then turn around and spin it as the truth, then later go on to debunk that rumor. It’s a triple RoR (return on rumor) business model!

          • dpaus
          • 7 years ago

          [quote<]a triple RoR (return on rumor) business model![/quote<] I like that so much I'm going to shamelessly steal it for my next executive meeting!

            • MadManOriginal
            • 7 years ago

            Cool..I’ll let you use it for a couple of years, then swoop in and patent troll your company. Sweet!

          • Deanjo
          • 7 years ago

          In the computer world that is referred to as a “Charlie” not a “Cheney”.

    • Coran Fixx
    • 7 years ago

    Is there a giant cost difference between this and a tegra2 to ASUS? Seems like a loser plan unless there is.

      • phileasfogg
      • 7 years ago

      Yes, I’m sure there is; else they (ASUS) wouldn’t have to go to yet-another-SoC-vendor. Tegra2 was selling in the mid-to-high teens as of 2010-11. It’s very unlikely Nvidia would drop the price to the single-digits. Wondermedia, on the other hand, would be happy to sell their SoC for $8-10, seeing as how their previous efforts in this space were probably selling for approx $6-$7.

    • dpaus
    • 7 years ago

    [quote<]profit margins may be slim on uber-cheap tablets[/quote<] First choice of uber-gerbils....

      • brute
      • 7 years ago

      NO NO NO NO NO NO !!!!!

        • UberGerbil
        • 7 years ago

        ….A thousand time NO!

          • dpaus
          • 7 years ago

          Haaaaa! I knew that would coax you out of hiding

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