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Yesterday’s U.S. launch of the ASUS Transformer tablet with a detachable clamshell keyboard sold out in minutes on every major online retailer (hours if you were clever and out-thought the tech crowd by actually showing up in the flesh).

Why so popular? ‘Cause Asus clued in to the fact that we produce content with our computers, not just consume it, and addressed that insight with a stable mobile-computing design that everyone else will scramble to imitate.

The Transformer is a $399 full-internet touch tablet, running Flash, and employs the sun-beating IPS (in-plane switching) screen technology. In seconds it “transforms” into a netbook, snapping onto a lightweight keyboard ($149).

Brag alert: last fall, I predicted this design would be the “industry standard in a couple of years.” Lenovo has a similar model coming out this summer, and it seems clear that most manufacturers will have to follow.

Especially clever is the extra eight hours offered by the second battery built into the keyboard. Early reviews offer some modest complaints, mostly about camera quality. For most Windows users or smartphone owners, the Android Honeycomb operating system will feel intuitive, do everything you expect from a Windows netbook, and produce content compatible with your desk machine.

With the events in Japan, current backorders may not get fulfilled until June. Which will be good for all of those manufacturers stuck with tablet-only configurations. Watch for prices of machines that can’t accept a clamshell keyboard to tumble into the sub $300 range, but students, teachers, and parents should resist the temptation to buy.



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