Sony S1, S2 Tablets Aim to Become Latest Apple iPad Competitors

Sony offered a glimpse of its S1 and S2 tablets. Both are Android-powered, and the S2 features a dual-screen configuration. Is that enough to take on the iPad?

Sony has offered a fresh glimpse of its upcoming S1 and S2 tablets, which will enter an already-crowded market at an unannounced point later in 2011.

Both tablets rely on a modified version of Google Android. However, nobody's likely to confuse one device with the other: While the S1 resembles a "traditional" tablet (with a 9.4-inch display), the S2 features a hinge connecting a pair of 5.5-inch screens, and folds into a relatively compact unit capable of being slipped into a jacket pocket.

In a July 13 interview with CNBC, Sony Electronics president and COO Phil Molyneux explained that the S1 has an "off-center gravity point so it balances in your hand" and a "unique wraparound design." He then demonstrated both tablets, which are capable of syncing to Sony's e-reader, music and video hubs, but shied away from questions about pricing and exact release dates. The S1 will appear in the fall timeframe, with no supporting carriers mentioned so far (both tablets are 3G/4G- and WiFi-compatible).

Meanwhile, AT&T will be the exclusive carrier of a 4G-capable S2 in the United States, once the tablet is released sometime this year. Sony had previously hinted at the device's capabilities in a short video that was high on whimsy and low on actual product detail.

That being said, Sony hasn't exactly kept the S1 and S2 under a tight cloak of secrecy. In April, the company offered a preliminary glimpse of the tablets in development, posing its relatively late entrance into the market as a strategic move. "If I want to differentiate [our tablet] from others, do I release it tomorrow, or do I wait until I differentiate it?" Sony CEO Howard Stringer told Reuters at the time.

Sony was apparently toying with the idea of introducing 3D to the device. "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," Google Senior Vice President Andy Rubin wrote in a quote shoehorned into Sony's April announcement. "I'm excited about 'Sony Tablet' as it will further spur the development of applications and network offerings which users are looking for."

However, it seems as if the S1 and S2 lack 3D or "holographic" displays, at least based on a hands-on report from Engadget.

In addition to the bestselling Apple iPad, the tablet market has become increasingly crowded over the past few months with Android-powered offerings from the likes of Samsung, Motorola and others. Meanwhile, rather than embrace the Android Army, Research In Motion and Hewlett-Packard have released tablets running proprietary operating systems. Microsoft is planning for the next version of Windows, code-named "Windows 8," to appear in a tablet edition.

Among all those competitors, though, it remains to be seen whether Sony can establish a presence for itself.

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