Asus beaten to the punch with a £64 Android 4.0 tablet

Asus has been beaten to the punch by a relatively unknown Chinese electronics firm: rather than the Transformer Prime, the Ainol NOVO7 is officially the first Android 4.0 'Ice Cream Sandwich' tablet to hit retail.

While Taiwanese giant Asus had planned to be the first to market with its Transformer Prime - a premium-priced sequel to the original Eee Pad Transformer, which allows the tablet to dock with a battery-equipped keyboard to create an Android netbook with 16-hour runtime - Google's early release of the Android 4.0 source code has left it in the dust.

Ainol, a small Chinese electronics company which produces budget tablets, has officially launched the NOVO7, a seven-inch tablet featuring a fully-working build of Android 4.0 'Ice Cream Sandwich' based on the source code made public by Google.

The tablet is remarkable for another reason: it's based on a MIPS architecture processor - the 1GHz Ingenic JZ4770 - rather than the more common ARM architecture, and that's a move that has Google interested.

"I'm thrilled to see the entrance of MIPS-based Android 4.0 tablets into the market," exclaimed Andy Rubin, Android creator and senior mobile veep at Google. "Low cost, high performance tablets are a big win for mobile consumers and a strong illustration of how Android's openness drives innovation and competition for the benefit of consumers around the world."

"The openness of Android is enabling a new level of connectedness and interaction between devices and between people across the globe," enthused Sandeep Vij, the head of MIPS Technologies. "We are excited to be a part of the Android ecosystem delivering on that vision. We applaud Ingenic's accomplishment in developing this new high-performance, feature-rich Android 4.0 tablet, and offering it at a price point that makes it widely accessible. We look forward to teaming with Ingenic as it continues to develop MIPS-Based mobile innovations."

That price point, incidentally, is Ainol's other ace card: unlike the premium-priced Asus Transformer Prime - which, admittedly, is a far more powerful device with a significantly larger display - the NOVO7 costs just £64 at retail in China.

While Ainol's launch is restricted to its home country for now, the company has confirmed plans to make the device available in other regions over the next few months.