As CES 2012 draws near, we are due for some loose lips to out a product or two ahead of the actual show. First out of the gate this week is ASUS with what appears to be a 7-inch addition to the Eee Pad line. Unfortunately the image wasn’t accompanied by any additional information, so we’re left to speculate. (Fortunately with just a week to go we won’t be kept in suspense for long).

There are several possibilities with this one. The first is that we’re looking at either the final version of the ASUS Eee Pad Memo that we first saw at CES last year or at a slightly updated version of it. ASUS has announced that the Eee Pad Memo will be out in January now that it’s gotten over its little fling with 3D, so chances are this isn’t that version. It would be pretty late to have tweaked the design on it. Announcing a new version of the Memo before actually releasing the original just seems like an odd notion too, so I’m liking the next option.

The more exciting prospect is that this is basically a Transformer Prime Mini that will cram the power of the Tegra 3 processor into a pocketable (well nerd-pocketable) package. I question that name, as I’m not so sure about a wee keyboard dock to pair up with a 7-inch tablet. But then again, if anyone has experience with making tiny keyboards it’s certainly ASUS.

Regardless of the exact product line, rumor has it ASUS is perhaps looking at an aggressive $ 299 price point for their 7-inch tablet(s). If true that would really put the other manufacturer’s feet to the fire, as most of the fully featured 7-inch tablets have been settling at $ 399 with the e-reader/tablet hybrids populating the $ 200-$ 250 range.

ASUS seems to be at least targeting Ice Cream Sandwich for all their tablets going forward, but depending on its launch date it’s entirely possible that this would arrive with Honeycomb.

I’d love to believe ASUS could get a Transformer Prime Mini done for $ 299, but I have a hard time believing ASUS could get by on that margin. With that said, the downward pressure from the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet may be too much for 7-inch tablet manufacturers to ignore.

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