April 26, 2011

Sony To Release Its Own Tablet

In an effort to compete with the growing market of tablets, Sony will launch its first version of the tablet later this year.

With the iPad dominating the market, Sony said earlier this year that it plans to be the number-two tablet maker by 2012.

Code-named S1 and S2, Sony's new devices will be the first tablets of their kind to allow users access to PlayStation games, deputy president of the consumer products and services group said at a media launch.

The S1 has a 9.4 inch screen, with front and rear cameras, has a curved design that Sony says makes it easier to hold for long periods of time.

The S2 has the ability to fold like a clamshell with two 5.5 inch color touchscreens that could fit into a pocket.

"This [S2] design is particularly relevant for reading digital books whose content is displayed on screen as two pages side-by side," Sony official Kunimasa Suzuki says.

The dual screen can be used together as a single larger screen, or one screen can be for playing games and the other for displaying control buttons. Both devices will be WiFi and 3G/4G compatible.

Sony is banking on the unusual and the access to first generation PlayStation games and its other networked content, to differentiate itself from the influx of tablets already on the market.

Both devices are based on Google's Android 3 operating system, and could be one of the Japanese company's most important product launches since the Playstation game console.

The company says that the devices will connect to Sony's cloud-computing based library of content which contain movies and music, in addition to Sony PlayStation video games that have been adapted for running on Android and digital books from Sony's Reader store.

Sony has struggled to come up with hit products to not only compete with companies like Apple, Samsung Electronics and Nintendo, but to help improve its profit margins as well.

Sony has seen its share price slide in the last ten years as it tries to keep up with its rivals.

For example, competitors like Samsung, with help from the successful sales of T.V.s and other products, overshadow Sony's $30 billion market value with its market capitalization of about $134 billion.

Criticized for failing to come up with a tablet offering of its own after the iPad launch in April 2010, Sony has been emphasizing its need to differentiate its devices from rivals, taking its time to come out with the best product.

"Although it's a late comer in the market, it has potential as what you need is just one big uniqueness that can sell to customers be it design or whatever," Lee Sun-tae, an analyst at Meritz Securities in Seoul, told The aily Mail Online.

"By the same token it could become just another of the Android gadgets flooding the market amid intensifying competition."

"Expectations are low that any company can present a credible challenge to Apple," Jay Defibaugh, director of equity research at MF Global in Tokyo, told Reuters.

"Sony strikes me as having a legitimate chance of combining its proprietary content and network services with an interesting form factor to attain its self-proclaimed target of being No.2 in this market."

Currently, Samsung's Galaxy Tab is the best-selling rival to the Apple iPad, however, technology research company Gartner says that the iPad will keep its top spot for the next few years even with all the competition in the expanding tablet market.

83.9 percent of the 17.6 million tablets told in 2010 belonged to the iPad, according to Gartner. The company predicts worldwide sales of tablets to reach 294.3 million in 2015.

There has been no pricing on Sony's new tablets, but it will need to compete with the iPad2, which is offered at $499 and up.

"It has to be the same price as the iPad or less," says analyst Shiro Mikoshiba of Nomura Securities. "They are in the position of having to catch up with Apple, so they have to be attractive in terms of price."

Sony's strategy has always been about combining the benefits of hardware, software and networking to make consumers happy, and that was the same goal for S1 and S2, says Kazuo Hirai, who was promoted in March to head Sony's consumer products and services division.

"There is no change to that approach," he says.

Later this year, Sony has promised a successor to its PlayStation Portable machine, code-named NGP for "next generation portable." The company promises the quality of a home console with an on-the-go machine with a screen double the size of smartphones.


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