Sony Tablets Face Crowded Market - Twice

Sony Tablets Face Crowded Market

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NEW YORK –

The innovative designs of Sony’s planned tablets, their ability to play PlayStation games, and Sony’s brand awareness and distribution will help the consumer electronics company make reasonable headway in the tablet market, analysts said.

But the devices will have to be price-competitive in an increasingly crowded market.

Sony’s tablets, due in the fall globally, will launch in time to take some advantage of a forecast 270 percent jump in 2011 factory-level North American tablet sales to $16.5 billion from last year’s $6.1 billion, according to a Strategy Analytics study. North American sales will reach $18 billion in 2015.

Although dollar growth will slow during the 2012- 2015 period, unit sales will rise at a faster pace than dollar sales because average selling prices will drop from $583 in 2010 to $356 in 2015, Strategy Analytics said.

Sony’s two tablets are the S1 and S2. The S1 features 9.4-inch display and “off-center of gravity” design to make it easy to grip and offer a “sense of stability and lightness” for comfortable use for hours, the company said. The S2 is a foldable model with two 5.5-inch displays. Pricing wasn’t announced.

Both feature Wi-Fi and 3G/4G cellular and will incorporate Google’s tablet-enhanced Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) operating system.

The S1 is optimized for media playback, while the foldable S2 Sony Tablet is intended for mobile communication and entertainment, the company said.

“It is not easy to differentiate in the tablet format, but Sony appears to have produced innovative designs, which when combined with the brand and [Sony’s] channel [strategy] should enable Sony to generate some reasonable market share, especially in the U.S.,” said Peter King, director of tablet and touchscreen strategies for Strategy Analytics.

In a tablet survey conducted in the U.S. earlier this month, Strategy Analytics asked consumers about their interest in a screen that “folds in two or rolls up” and found that more than one-third of respondents would find this feature “at least useful, so there is some potential market there,” King said.

With the unveiling, King added, “we sense that there has been some real collaboration between Sony’s various teams: CE, VAIO, PlayStation and Mobile, finally breaking down the silos that have held them back for years.”

Susan Kervorkian, IDC research director, also called Sony’s form factors innovative and lauded the company’s leveraging of PlayStation network and games and Sony Reader content.

She also complimented Sony for not coming out with a tablet with the smartphone version of Android.

“Short term, competitive pricing will be absolutely essential for Sony to get a toehold in a market dominated by Apple and increasingly crowded with Android-based (and other OS-based) competitors,” she continued.

Longer term, Kervorkian continued, “Sony needs to tie its tablets in with other connected hardware devices (from PCs to TVs to smartphones and gaming devices) as well as tie all of its connected devices together with compelling cloud-based consumer services.

Both tablets, like the planned SonyEricsson Xperia Play smartphone, will download first-generation Play- Station game titles, and both will connect wirelessly to Sony’s Qriocity music and video-streaming services, which are also accessible through Sony TVs, Blu-ray players, and home-theater-in-a-box (HTiB) systems. Both models will also download ebook content from Sony’s Reader Store2.

The S2’s two 5.5-inch displays can be used a combined single screen, or each screen can be used simultaneously for separate functions.

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