I should stop here to say that Asus did answer one of my key questions: How do these two operating systems talk to each other? Let’s say I took a photo and enhanced it with an Android app, how do you open that in Windows, or vice versa? Asus created a handy little file transfer protocol accessible as an app and a desktop icon where you can ship files back and forth when the tablet is docked. This isn’t as easy as something that auto-syncs, and I wouldn’t recommend pushing massive video files this way, but it’s certainly faster and more convenient than uploading and downloading via Dropbox or some other cloud service (or, heaven forbid, e-mailing yourself).
It is kind of fun to dock the tablet and access Android with a keyboard and mouse. It makes Angry Birds easier to play, and you still can just reach up and activate stuff on the screen when you want to. As I point out in my video review, attached to this article, there are a couple problems with Android apps: Their tablet apps are not quite best of breed (iOS insistance on iPad versions of aps pays dividends in many cases) and so a lot of the Play software is not optimized for such a large tablet. It’s really strange to load up Disney Interactive’s Where’s My Water game on Android and see it load sideways on the AiO: it doesn’t scale to landscape, so while on the base station you’ll have to bend your brain a little to play it. And even apps that do scale based on orientation don’t always do it very well: When you have a full-screen loading app designed to spread across at most 10 inches, almost doubling the navigable area to 18 inches leaves you with a lot of white space on certain social media apps, the same thing happens to web page designs found on 99 per cent of sites.
As I ran into the myriad form and software issues with the AiO (Windows is no fun, the screen is too heavy, the battery isn’t great) I found myself thinking that this is too much of an in-betweener device to splash out $1,299 on it. That said, I happen to think the problems with the AiO are actually opportunities.
Everyone who saw this thing in action was fascinated by it. Make the shape and weight a little more sexy and you would have a really compelling product. Everyone who used it asked the same question: Why couldn’t they get one operating system to work on tablet and PC? As I reviewed it I kept thinking there was one company that may be closer to providing a true all-in-one computer than this Google-Microsoft-Asus mash-up: Apple. A 15 inch iPad that docks into a beautifully potent Mac PC, that runs all your apps and media off one login, that makes it easier than Apple currently does to sync docs across all platforms? That could be wonderful.
If I were Google, I would get moving on a better combination of their Chrome desktop OS with Android, because this Transformer AiO provided a glimpse into what could be a winning experience for PC users. And I would tell chairman Eric Schmidt to keep his trap shut, as recent comments by the former CEO suggested the company would keep them separate forever. If I were Microsoft I would look at the AiO as a rebuke: A PC with detachable tablet that looks to another OS for tablet features is a problem for Redmond.
Make no mistake: If you’re in the market for a Google tablet or a Windows desktop PC, you will probably end up unhappy if you buy the Transformer AiO. It’s an awkward duck, but it could also be a fascinating preview of what’s coming up next.
The AiO will be available in Canada as of April 12, at such retailers as Future Shop, Staples and Best Buy.