Sony readies Tablet S and Tablet P for release

Sony is betting that its unusually designed Android tablets, shown off at IFA in Berlin, will help it catch up with rival devices that are also trying to take on the iPad
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor on

Sony has revealed more details about its first two tablets, the Sony Tablet S and Sony Tablet P, and set out launch dates for the Android devices.

Sony Tablet S

The Sony Tablet S has a 9.4-inch touchscreen display and runs Android Honeycomb. Photo credit: CNET UK

The Wi-Fi-only versions of the Tablet S will arrive in mid-September, while the 3G version and the Tablet P should appear on shelves in November, the electronics manufacturer said on Wednesday. Both devices were first shown off in April, under the codenames S1 and S2.

The electronics giant is launching its tablets several months, or in the case of the Samsung Galaxy Tab, at least a generation behind some rivals. This leaves it playing catch-up — a fact alluded to by Sony's chief executive Howard Stringer in a speech at the IFA show in Berlin.

"It's not who makes it first that counts, but who makes it better," Stringer said on Wednesday.

Sony Tablet S

The Tablet S is the more conventional of the two, with a 9.4-inch touchscreen display. However, it has an asymmetrical design that "shifts the centre of balance to one side", Kazuo Hirai, president of Sony's consumer products and services group, told the IFA audience. The Tablet P is a more unusual clamshell device, with folding dual 5.5-inch touchscreen displays that can be used separately or together as a single large screen.

Sony are late to the party, but considering the others have not had much fun so far, I do not think it really matters.
– Carolina Milanesi, Gartner

The different form factor of the Tablet P could help Sony lure users away from competing Android devices or the iPad, according to Gartner mobile device analyst Carolina Milanesi.

"They are late to the party, but considering the others have not had much fun so far, I do not think it really matters," Milanesi said. "They at least came to market with a different approach in design, especially with the Sony P, and they made the effort to create a Sony experience on top of the basic Honeycomb one."

The Tablet S will be released in three configurations: a 16GB and a 32GB model with Wi-Fi only, and a 16GB model with Wi-Fi and 3G. The Wi-Fi-only versions come with Android 3.1, while the 3G-equipped device will run Android 3.2. It has an Nvidia Tegra 2 processor and front- and rear-facing cameras.

Sony Tablet P

Sony plans only a single version of the Tablet P, which comes with similar specs to the S series, with both Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity. It provides less storage space than S-series devices, with 4GB, but this can be bolstered using a microSD card.

Sony Tablet P

The Sony Tablet P has a folding screen, Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity, and 4GB of storage, and is set to retail at £499. Photo credit: CNET UK

Both devices can also be used to control and share content to other DLNA-compatible TV sets and devices. For example, people can wirelessly stream a film from the device to the TV, or employ the infrared technology to use the tablet as a remote control for other Sony devices.

Sony's ability to easily tie its tablets to other products and services gives it an advantage over its mobile device rivals, according to Stringer.

"Apple makes an iPad, but does it make movies?" Stringer asked the IFA audience. "Warner Bros and Fox produce fine movies, but what about their cameras and smartphones? Sony is where art meets technology."

Milanesi suggested the Sony brand name could sway some buyers. However, she noted that pricing will be the key to wooing would-be iPad purchasers, something that other manufacturers have struggled with.

"I think that they might have overestimated the value that all these points bring to the devices and have priced them too close to the iPad, which at the moment is not really working out well for other players," she said.

The Tablet S will cost £399 for the 16GB, Wi-Fi only version, going up to £499 for the 16GB, 3G-equipped model. The Tablet P is also priced at £499. Both are available to pre-order from the Sony website.

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