Sony says it will ship two Android Honeycomb tablets in the coming weeks: the Sony Tablet S with an innovative fold-over look in September, and the Tablet P with a dual-screen clamshell design by the end of 2011.
The 9.4-inch, 1,280x768-pixel touch-screen of the Tablet S (code-named S1) resembles a pad of paper with sheets folded over. Sony has begun preorders for the $499 6GB and 32GB $599 Tablet S models. It has yet to release pricing for the Tablet P (code-named S2), however.
Sony first revealed details of the Honeycomb tablets on April 26 and officially launched the products Aug. 31 at the 2011 IFA conference in Berlin.
The Tablet P's folding clamshell look resembles that of the Kyocera Echo smartphone and Nintendo DS portable video game system. The Tablet P features two 5.5-inch LCDs (top and bottom) that can display separately or in one combined screen. When used separately, the screens can be used like an e-book reader with pages to the left and right. Or you can use a virtual keyboard on one side with the screen on the other.
Both tablets run the Google Android "Honeycomb" operating system. The Tablet S runs Android 3.1, and the Tablet P will operate on Android 3.2 when it ships. Motorola Xoom and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablets also run the Honeycomb OS.
With these new Android tablets, Sony officials say they aim to become the No. 2 tablet maker behind the popular Apple iPad. Sony executives had reportedly dropped hints back in May 2010 that the company was eyeing the tablet market.
To pass Apple, Sony will first need to compete with Samsung, Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group, noted in an e-mail to eWEEK.
"Another Apple clone has to first take out the Samsung Galaxy Tab, and typically these days, when Sony and Samsung bump heads, Samsung wins," Enderle wrote.
"I really doubt we'll see any of the iPad clone designs, including this one, do very well until Google can get Ice Cream Sandwich out the door," he added. "Honeycomb is just too limited."
The company's entry into the tablet space comes a few weeks after HP announced it will discontinue its webOS TouchPad tablet and Google announced it will buy Android handset maker Motorola Mobility.
The new Sony tablets feature cloud-based services for video games, books and music. Sony will offer downloads of up to 10 million songs from its Music Unlimited service starting in October. Meanwhile, users can choose among 2.5 million book titles that they can download to the tablet from the Sony Reader store, the company reports. The units can also serve as a PlayStation gaming unit. Plus, the tablets have cameras on both the front and back of the units for still pictures and video recording.
Sony is looking to combine the use of the Tablet S and Tablet P with some of its other entertainment products. They can share video with HDTVs, such as Sony's Bravia models, and beam music wirelessly to speakers, including the company's HomeShare models. The tablets also feature an infrared emitter to serve as a programmable remote control for other consumer electronics devices.
The Android tablets both support WiFi connectivity and the Tablet P will run 4G on AT&T's mobile broadband network. In addition, the tablets run Nvidia's dual-core Tegra 2 CPU. Mobile devices such as the Samsung Galaxy R smartphone also run the Tegra 2 chip, which can ably handle videos and gaming.
Additional features the tablets will offer include a three-axis accelerometer and a gyro sensor, which is used to detect rotation.