Sony, deciding this whole iPad-sparked tablet business might indeed have legs after all, has announced that it plans to release two Android-running tablets this fall.
The first, code-named "S1," has a unique wedge shape-a design thought to make it easier to hold-and a 9.4-inch display, and, according to Sony, is "optimized for rich media entertainment."
The second, known for now as the "S2," features a clamshell design that's not a far cry from Sony's Nintendo DS console. Its 5.5-inch displays can display separate images-surf the Web on one side while checking email or typing on a virtual keyboard on the other, say-or collaborate as a single big screen, albeit with a black bar down the center. (The pros tend to insist that one barely notices such seams. Kyocera's dual-screen Echo phone has one, too.)Both tablets, unveiled April 26, will run the "Honeycomb" version of Android, include WiFi, 3G and 4G connectivity, and will be able to access cloud-based services that Sony plans to offer, providing video games, books and other content."-Sony Tablet' [a placeholder name] delivers an entertainment experience where users can enjoy cloud-based services on-the-go at any time," Kunimasa Suzuki, corporate executive, senior vice president and deputy president of the company's Consumer Products & Services Group, said in a statement. "We're aiming to create a new lifestyle by integrating consumer hardware, including -Sony Tablet' with content and network."Given Sony's gaming history, the tablets unsurprisingly will be able to access first-generation titles from Sony's PlayStation Suite through Qriocity, a network platform Sony launched in 2010 for connecting its other network-enabled devices to its games.Sony is a bit late to the tablet game. Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Research In Motion, HTC, Motorola and others have already showed their hands, if not released products. Nonetheless, Sony is shooting for the top. Or something near it. Acknowledging that Apple is the "king of tablets," Sony's Suzuki told Reuters in January that Sony "would like to really take the No. 2 position in a year."Suggesting the company's late entry was a strategic move and not a liability, Sony CEO Howard Stringer, also speaking to Reuters, noted, "If I want to differentiate it from others, do I release it tomorrow, or do I wait till I differentiate it?"Stringer added that Sony was debating whether to include 3D capability. While Sony didn't directly address this in its April 26 statement, an odd phrasing in a quote from Google Senior Vice President Andy Rubin, discussing Honeycomb in the statement, suggests Sony may have taken a stab at it. "Android 3.0 is a new version of the Android platform with a new holographic user interface that is designed from the ground up for devices with larger screen sizes, particularly tablets," Rubin said. "I'm excited about 'Sony Tablet' as it will further spur the development of applications and network offerings which users are looking for."Competitor Dell arrived early on the tablet scene, though with a display size that turned out to be a dud-a thing it plans to rectify. CEO Michael Dell, speaking recently with the Wall Street Journal, was asked what surprised him most about the evolution of the tech industry since he became CEO four years ago."The rapid rise of the tablet," Dell told the Journal. "I didn't completely see that coming."