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Sony's Honeycomb Tablets: Boom or Bust?

Apr 26 2011, 2:02pm CDT | by , in News | Android

Sony's Honeycomb Tablets: Boom or Bust?

On-time analysis of the latest Honeycomb entrant.

The cat is out of the bag and Sony's S1 and S2 Android tablets have been unveiled. Right now, the Internet is busy debating whether or not the market has room for these new entrants. With the PlayBook's recent launch- and the imminent TouchPad and Galaxy Tab- things are starting to look a bit crowded. Does Sony have a prayer of standing out?

 

Hardware:

Both tablets will run Android 3.0 and pack the Tegra 2 SOC. The S1 is a fairly standard 9.4" display slate, while the S2 will have a clamshell form-factor and two 5.5" displays. Sony claims that the S1 will have an "off center" weight to help take strain off of your hands during long-term use. This sounds a little similar to the Notion Ink Adam's design- which worked quite well.

Functionality:

One selling point for these new tablets is PlayStation integration. First-generation PS titles will be playable on both devices, which should give them a shot at competing with the iPad for gaming. Content will be pushed through Sony's Qriosity music and video service, and the Reader Store will provide ebook access.

If you own a Bravia TV, the S1 and S2 will act as wireless remotes. You'll be able to change the channel or alter the volume. This functionality may even extend beyond Sony products. From the press release:

"Also, through DLNA functionality on “Sony Tablet”, users can “throw” personal content to large screen televisions or music to wireless speakers."

This sort of feature has been promised by everyone from MeeGo to WebOS, but has yet to be implemented well in a mass product. Maybe Sony will be the first to get it right. Although I wouldn't bet my money on it.

Cost:

Engadget's inside tips place the S1 at $599 and the S2 at $699. But it's worth noting that this leak came back in February, before the iPad 2 launched. Many manufacturers- like Samsung, revised their tablet plans after the iPad 2 launch event. If Sony really wants to compete, they'll drop the S1 down to $499 and the S2 to $599, if not lower.

Do they have a Prayer?

The S2 is a fairly big gamble on Sony's part. The rounded body makes it quite thick, and there's still no real proof of a market for clamshell tablets. The S1 is a much safer bet, especially since PlayStation integration will help set it apart from the rest of the Honeycomb pack.

To my mind, the success or failure of both devices will hinge heavily on the timing of Samsung's 10.1" and 8.9" Galaxy Tabs. Sammy is the only manufacturer out there with the visibility of a previously-established Android tablet line. And the wild popularity of their Galaxy S line of smartphones means a huge base of customers out there will be quite ready to trust a Galaxy Tab.

If the Galaxy Tab does prove to be the first successful Android tablet, I don't have much faith in Sony's ability to draw away the limelight. But if- like Motorola, Samsung fails? Sony may find themselves the focus of hopes for Android fanboys the world over.

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