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Asustek Fonepad to tackle Japan rivals

TAIPEI--Taiwan's Asustek Computer Inc. is scheduled to launch its new phone-tablet hybrid device in Japan April 25 in an effort to win back consumer interest from tablet rivals.

The 7-inch Fonepad, featuring Intel Corp.'s new Atom Z2420 1.2GHz low-power processor and 3G cellular connectivity, will hit Japanese stores at a cost of 29,800 Japanese yen (US$298) for an 8GB model, Asustek said yesterday.

The device was unveiled at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in the Spanish city of Barcelona in February, and aims to challenge devices from rivals Apple and Samsung Electronics Co.

According to sales rankings by BCN Inc., a Japanese research firm that tracks retail sales of most consumer items in Japan, Apple saw its share of Japan's tablet market rise for the second consecutive month in March to 51.2 percent, while Asustek fell from a peak of 47.7 percent in January to only 28.8 percent last month.

The March results also represented the first time over the past six months that Asustek's market share in Japan had dropped to below 30 percent.

The Taiwanese computer maker was the top tablet vendor in Japan in December last year with a 44.4-percent market share, ending the reign of Apple that started with the launch of the iPad there in May 2010.

BCN said the success was the result of the relatively lower price of the Nexus 7, a 7-inch tablet co-branded by Asustek and search engine Google Inc., while a supply shortage of Apple's 7.85-inch iPad mini at the end of last year also hit the American electronics giant's market share.

The 16GB version of the Nexus 7 went on sale in Japan last September at a starting price of 19,800 Japanese yen, much lower than the fourth-generation iPad at 42,800 yen and the iPad mini at 28,800 yen.

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