Sony tablet PCs were announced in April 2011 to rival the Apple iPad. The announcement came soon after the iPad 2 was launched in the US on 11 March. Sony has launched two models in the category. They are the first true competing devices to be released by the Japanese electronics leader. However, they are not expected to be available to consumers until late in 2011, probably around October 2011. The company joins several others with devices that offer a real alternative to the current iPad leader.
Tablets form the fastest growing market segment within the personal computer market. The segment was created by Apple which leads innovation for mobile personal computing and telephony. Overall tablet sales accelerated during 2010 to globally total more than 10 million units, up from only 90,000 in 2009 based on figures announced by the US Consumer Electronics Association. Analysts predict that 21 million of the devices will be purchased in 2011 with 26.5 million in 2012. Personal computer and notebook sales have slowed as more and more people switch over to tablets, particularly in the USA and Europe.
One rival unveiled its new tablet in February 2011. The model has an LCD screen similar to the iPad 10-inch screen. It is slightly thicker at 10.9 millimeters versus the slimmer 8.8 millimeters for the iPad 2.
Analysts at the research firm Strategy Analytics forecast that tablet PC sales could reach around US$50 billion by 2015. The devices are designed to fill a gap that exists between conventional notebooks and smartphones. The take mobile computing and Wi-Fi connectivity to a new level.
With a starting price that many see as hefty, Apple sold almost 15 million iPads during calendar 2010 to representing a revenue of almost US$10 billion. That is big business, and one that rivals like Sony are eager to conquer.
Prototypes of the Sony models have been provided to analysts for comment. Even though both Sony models use the Google Android 3.0 operating system for the personal computers, but the similarity stops there. The two models are quite different.
The S1 model is a flat panel design and features a 9.4-inch liquid crystal display (LCD) with two cameras, one front one rear. The touch-screen itself is crisp, bright and easy on the eyes. Weight details have not been officially released, but analyst reports indicate it is surprisingly light. Rather than being completely flat, its case is slightly wedge shaped. When using the S1 in portrait mode, it is held by gripping the thicker of the two sides. The result is a pleasant, natural feel. In landscape mode, the unit has indentations along each side that provide a convenient grip for the thumbs.
The smaller S2 model folds like a clamshell so that it shrinks to a size that easily fits into a large jacket pocket or small handbag. Once opened, it reveals dual 5.5-inch screens on the base and lid. Some purists argue this clamshell design means it is not strictly a tablet; but that view seems silly.
The two Sony tablet PCs are likely to be welcomed by consumers when they are released to consumers later this year. It seems they will seriously challenge the Apple in this segment. Who knows, they may even knock the iPad off its high perch.