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Sony Tablets Face Crowded Market

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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