Sony Adds Details To Tablet PC Plans

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Sony served up additional details about its first two tablet PCs.

This included the announcement that AT&T will be the exclusive U.S. cellular-data provider for the foldable S2 tablet.

The S2, which features dual 5.5-inch screens, will have Wi-Fi but will also operate on AT&T’s 3G and HSPA+ 4G networks, Sony announced.

The S2 will not be available in a Wi-Fi-only version, and the planned S1 tablet with 9.4-inch display will be available only in a Wi-Fi version, Sony executives said during a press event that included a demonstration of the tablets.

AT&T business development VP said the S2 would “leverage Sony and AT&T distribution.” He didn’t announce price plans, but he did say AT&T will offer prepaid and postpaid plans for the Android device.

Both models, based on the tablet-optimized Android Honeycomb OS, will be available in the fall at undisclosed prices. They were announced on April 26 during a press event in Japan.

During the New York event, Sony executives also announced a one-year extension of Sony’s sponsorship of ESPN’s 3D sports network. Sony provides the broadcaster with 3D broadcast equipment under the sponsorship, which includes Sony advertising on the network;

Sony also announced a collaboration with Adobe to preinstall Adobe Flash on the tablets and stage a contest to encourage the use of Adobe AIR technology to create apps optimized for the two devices’ native capabilities, including the devices’ cameras. App developers will compete for $200,000 in cash prizes, and winning apps will be promoted on the Sony devices.

During a Q&A session, Sony Electronics president/ COO Phil Molyneux reiterated that Sony “remains committed to active-shutter” 3D technology because Full- HD 3D requires the technology, and “consumers see the difference.”

In discussing their tablet plans, Sony executives announced a handful of other features but said they were saving key details for the fall launch. They declined to reveal such details as processor speed, video-capture resolution, or whether HDMI mirroring would be available, but they said the S1’s infrared output would enable remote control of home entertainment products from multiple brands. In addition, each tablet will be available with different levels of embedded memory, and both will come with expandable memory.

For his part, Kunimasa Suzuki, president of Sony’s Vaio and mobile business group, said the tablets would compete successfully in the market because of four differentiating factors, including form factor. The S2, for example, folds to fit in a sports-jacket pocket or purse, and each 5.5-inch touchscreen can be used as a combined single screen, or each screen can be used simultaneously for separate functions, such as playing video on one screen and showing control buttons on the other.

When the S2 is held vertically like a book, each screen can display separate pages from a book downloaded from Sony’ e-book store.

The chassis of the S1, unlike other tablets, features a tapered depth so it can be held comfortably in one hand, said Molyneux. The tapered design also makes it more comfortable to use the tablet’s virtual keyboard when the tablet is placed on a table because the display angles up toward the user, he said.

The tablets’ other three differentiating factors are “swift and smooth” technologies, wireless access to Sony entertainment sources, and cross-device connectivity, the executives said.

Swift and smooth technologies enable faster loading of web pages and more responsive touchscreen scrolling and multi-touch operation, the executives said.

The Sony entertainment sources accessed wirelessly through preinstalled apps include Sony’s Qriocity music and video-streaming sites, Crackle, and Sony’s Reader Store. As a PlayStation-certified device, the tablets will be the first to download first-generation PlayStation game titles.

Cross-device connectivity features include DLNA sever capability to stream video, photos and music to other DLNA devices, plus an IR output that turns the S1 tablet into a universal remote.

All four differentiation themes will be promoted at retail, said Michael Lucas, networked technology and services senior VP. The tablets will “play an important role” in Sony’s fiscal third-quarter advertising, he added.


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