Sony Prepares to Launch Tablet PCs Into Jaws of Competition

Sony Prepares to Launch Tablet PCs Into Jaws of Competition
Sony Prepares to Launch Tablet PCs Into Jaws of Competition

Sony (SNE) will join the tablet PC competition this fall, the company said Tuesday. The company's official announcement about its Sony Tablet described the device as delivering "the perfect combination of hardware, content and network with seamless usability for a high-quality, engaging entertainment experience."

Still, the tablet, which will come in two models, is not terribly unlike others which have come to market. It runs on the Android 3.0 operating system, will connect to the Web via WiFi and 3G/4G signals, and is designed to run "rich media" -- i.e., video content. There are some differences in evidence, however. While the "S1," with its 9.4-inch display, will resemble most tablets, the "S2" will feature dual 5.5-inch displays and can be folded in half.

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Sony's new offerings will compete with products from Samsung, Dell (DELL), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and of course, Apple (AAPL), to name a few. Even China-based PC firm Lenovo is rumored to be nearing the launch of a tablet PC. Lenovo's product will begin to crowd the tablet market in the People's Republic, which has the largest numbers of Internet users and wireless subscribers in the world.

The Sony tablets will reach retailers just before the holiday sales season.

It would be easy to write-off the Sony Tablet as just one more product in a crowded segment of the consumer electronics field that is already dominated by the Apple iPad 2. Beyond those issues, Sony has a particularly difficult handicap to overcome. Sales of its VAIO personal computer are so small that they are not listed among the largest manufacturers by research firms IDC and Gartner. In other words, Sony lacks the distribution leverage or brand recognition that Dell, HP and Lenovo have in the computer market. Sony also lacks Apple's strong presence in the smartphone market: The wide popularity of the iPhone was certainly a factor in the successful launch of the iPad.

The tablet market is already tough. Pushing a product which has almost no PC or smartphone beachhead will be nearly impossible.

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