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4/26/2011
03:20 PM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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Sony Intros Two Android Tablets

The S1 and S2, which will run Android 3.0 Honeycomb, are Sony's unconventional and underwhelming entries into the tablet market.

Trailing nearly every other consumer electronics company on the planet, Sony on Tuesday announced plans to bring not one, but two, new Android 3.0 Honeycomb-based tablets to the market this fall.

The S1 is a slate-style tablet, while the S2 takes design cues from Kyocera and offers a folding, dual-screen form factor. According to Sony, both devices will have Wi-Fi and 3G/4G data radios and be used for exciting tasks such as browsing the Web, checking email (did you catch that last one, RIM?), as well as watch movies, play video games, and read books.

The S1 has a single 9.4-inch display of unknown quality. Sony describes it as having an "off-center of gravity design [that] realizes stability and ease of grip, as well as a sense of stability and lightness, offering comfortable use for hours."

I don't really know what that is supposed to mean, but the pictures show that the S1 has a tapered shape that sort of resembles the MacBook Air. It also has two cameras and will make heavy use of Sony's Qriosity (pronounced "curiosity") media service. It with have a Tegra 2 SoC (system-on-a-chip) under the hood, and have a customized "Quick and Smooth" touch panel user interface that is hopefully nothing like Sony Ericsson's Xperia UI.

The S2 is unique for a tablet. It is a sideways clamshell that has two 5.4-inch displays (1024 x 480 pixels) that, when opened, make a larger display--albeit with a black bar running down the middle. It, too, will have a Tegra 2 SoC, cameras, a customized user interface, and can make use of one screen for game controllers or text input.

Both the S1 and S2--which are codenames, by the way--will be PlayStation certified and come with support for DLNA media sharing to devices such as Sony's Bravia line of television sets. Sony didn't provide any more information about the two devices, such as details regarding processor speeds, camera quality, which 3G/4G networks will be supported, screen quality, memory and storage, or many other specs.

With a launch time slated for this fall, Sony has up to seven months to prepare these devices for the market. In the meantime, the RIM PlayBook, HP TouchPad, Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9/10.1, Apple iPad 2, and LG G-Slate will have had plenty of time to saturate the tablet market.

Can Sony make a dent so far behind the rest of the pack? Doubtful, I'd wager. The company can certainly throw together decent products, but its track record with mobile devices--look at any of the cell phones it has announced in the last two years--isn't what you'd call "successful."

At least one person was willing to provide Sony with a little praise.

"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," said Andy Rubin, senior vice president of mobile at Google. "I'm excited about [the S1 and S2], as they will further spur the development of applications and network offerings which users are looking for."


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