Asus has shown off the Eee Pad, an iPad-like tablet that lacks the cachet of its famous rival but appears to beat it on features and price. Pity that it's only a trade show prop then.

The problem is timing. It's due out in six months or mroe from now and right now that counts. Is this the worst form of marketing, then, the aspirational launch? We'd love to launch product X but we don't actually have it in a working form but still fancy getting some headlines for its non-existence...

Details are sparse, the EP121 model will run Windows 7 on Intel’s CULV Core 2 Duo chips, and come with a 12.1 inch screen, and a claimed 10-hour battery life which probably means around five. A separate  EP101TC model will feature a smaller 10-inch screen and run on Windows Embedded Compact 7, a spruced up version of Embedded CE (remember those initials?) that few will look forward to with any great enthusiasm.

As well as having the ability to work with an external keyboard, the larger of the two devices will also feature a USB port and compatibility with Adobe Flash video. Apple’s first iPad lacks either of these, and the hostility of Steve Jobs looks likely to rule out the latter indefinitely.

Frankly, this is starting to look like an Eee PC without the keyboard.

"The Eee Pad can display Adobe flash for the full web experience, has a USB port and a camera," Shih said. "We looked at how we could best address the needs of users from all walks of life, and I believe this is the product," said Asustek chairman, Jonney Shih, optimistically.

Asus has been an innovator in the last three years with its netbooks but there is no doubting that it and its PC-focused rivals didn't exactly see the iPad coming. Correction, they did see it coming but didn't see it being profitable and interesting. That has suddenly changed but they are now behind and still wedded to Windows.

Third-party websites are quoting the pricing as being between $399 (£270) and $499 (£340), which means the most expensive Eee Pad will cost less that the most basic iPad, which is currently on offer for £429 after its UK launch.

But the comparison with the iPad looks pretty ridiculous. The iPad is a flawed product but it is on sale now. The Eee Pad is not supposed to ship for over six months, a date so far in the future that the iPad will likely have changed by then anyway.

Asus will partner with Microsoft to push their own version of Apple’s app store, Shih said, but I have the feeling they will have to work a lot harder to make inroads on the Apple monopoly than making promises for devices that barely exist.

Conclusion: the iPad is safe for now.