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Acer's Tablet Onslaught Revealed, Includes Giant Dual-Screen iPad Rival

Acer Iconia

Acer, hottest ticket in the netbook game, has just revealed it's not going to sit idly by while Apple's iPad eats its dinner: It's got a wide range of tablets inbound, including a dual-screened half-laptop/half-tablet iPad rival.

At a press event today, Acer has just revealed in detail its plans to tackle the tablet/slate PC market with a broad range of products designed to rival Apple's iPad. The company's tablet onslaught is possibly the most concerted effort that anyone—including Apple—has made yet to capture the broadest possible range of the nascent tablet market: Acer plans to release a 5-inch (larger than iPhone-size) smartphone, a 7-incher (Samsung Galaxy Tab size) and a 10-inch version (pitched to compete with the iPad's large screen estate, which many commenters still think leads the pack). The smartphone is going to sport a massive-sounding 8-megapixel camera unit and will arrive in April 2011, and Acer's positioned it very carefully as "100% smartphone, 100% tablet" so we can guess they're chasing both the iPhone and iPod Touch. While the 10-inch tablet—also due in April—will have a smaller 5-megapixel camera on the back, but a 1GHz Tegra 2 CPU/GPU solution that will likely keep its costs down.

We don't yet know the specs for the iPhone and iPad revisions due in 2011, of course, but the smallest Acer "tablet" would seem pitched to compete with the iPhone and iPod Touch—and probably take them on a good run for their money—while the 10-incher sounds like a poor rival to this year's iPad (since we're expecting a faster CPU and twin camera's in 2011's iPad 2) though it'll probably have a very low price and Google's tablet-friendly version of Android will help.

The thing that's most intriguing though is Acer's dual-screen tablet. It's the Iconia, a twin-14-inch-touchscreen leviathan of a computer, half-laptop and half-tablet. The Iconia would seem to be Acer's attempt to reconcile the two paradigms of personal computing that are in such dramatic collision at the moment, and neatly side-stepping the problems of Windows 7's touch-unfriendliness via a custom UI. It's tagged as offering "a personal approach to personal computing" with the two screens able to be configured either as a conventional notebook, with touch keyboard, or a more interesting dual-display tablet. We've seen similar ideas from Toshiba and Kno before, but the Toshiba Libretto W100 was stymied by a limited edition status and small screens, and the Kno hasn't surfaced as a viable product yet: The Iconia is scheduled for a mid-January arrival at a cost of about $2,300.

Of course Apple's iPad 2 is expected to be revealed at about the same time as the Iconia, and will likely go on sale before the clutch of smaller Acer offerings, so we'll have to watch the situation closely to see if—as rumors suggest—the merest hint of the iPad 2 suppresses the success of its competition.

To keep up with this news, and more like it, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.