As befits an evolving ecosystem, a new tablet from Sony will offer two screens instead of one. The dual-screen tablet, along with a single-screen model, will come with the Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablet-optimized operating system and, to the delight of gaming fans, with PlayStation Suite software.
The single-screen version, code-named S1, will offer a 9.4-inch display and will be optimized for media entertainment. The two-screen model, dubbed the S2, is intended for mobile communication and entertainment, and both are expected to be released in the fall.
'Off-Center of Gravity Design'
The S1 has what Sony is calling an "off-center of gravity design" that enables stability, an easier grip, and lightness. The S2's two 5.5-inch displays can be folded into one portable unit, each screen facing the other on the inside. The company noted that the two screens can be used as one large screen, as if they were one large desktop, or they can be broken into functions, such as one screen playing video and the other showing control buttons.
In addition to being a tablet, a mobile game machine, and an e-reader, Sony is promoting the tablets as remote-control devices. The S1, for instance, has infrared technology and works as a universal remote control for a variety of audio-visual devices, such as Sony's line of Bravia TVs. With the tablet, users can turn the TV on, change the channel, and adjust volume. For home devices that support the DLNA standard, content on the tablet can be "thrown" to the TV or to wireless speakers.
Sony is promoting the use of its PlayStation Network and Qriocity music service through the tablets, although the irony is that both have been down since last week. Recently, Sony attributed the network problems to "external intrusions," which some observers have suggested could have been a hacker attack by the Anonymous group, or by individual members within that group.
The Two-Screen Challenge
Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis for consumer technology at the NPD Group, said Sony's decision to add the PlayStation Suite to these tablets is part of its announced strategy "to take advantage of the large number of Android devices," notably smartphones. As an example, the PlayStation Suite has been deployed to Sony's Experia Play, which is distributed by Verizon Wireless.
Rubin said the two-screen approach will help the company differentiate the new tablets from other Android Honeycomb tablets, although the two-screen approach has already been offered on several products, including the Windows-based Libretto tablet from Toshiba and an Acer Android tablet.
The big issue with two screens, Rubin said, is that it presents an "additional challenge to developers." Using the two screens as one large, virtual screen could minimize the adaptation a developer would have to do to an app. But creating an app that uses two functionally different screens would, most likely, need to be developed only for Honeycomb two-screen tablets -- currently a very limited population.