Yesterday, Sony officially entered the tablet market by unveiling two new tablet devices for release this Fall. As everybody and their mother are rushing into the tablet market to compete with Apple’s iPad after its unprecedented success, it’s not surprising to see one of the largest electronic makers in the world throw their hat into the ring.

What is surprising to me, however, is the decidedly different approaches each of Sony’s new tablets are taking compared to the rest of the crowd. And from a gamer’s perspective, the fact that both tablets are powered by Tegra 2 chips and will be the first tablets to officially be “PlayStation Certified” is definitely intriguing.

The first of Sony’s tablets, currently being called the S1, carries a 9.4” screen that’s only slightly smaller than the iPad’s. Unlike the iPad and most other similar tablets, the S1 features a tapered design that’s thicker at the top and gets skinnier towards the bottom, which Sony claims is more comfortable and is “like holding a magazine”.

Their second tablet, the S2, is a much more radical design and isn’t much like a tablet at all actually. It’s a clamshell design similar to a Nintendo 3DS, with 5.5” screens on both the upper and lower halves. The screens can work in unison to display content or can work independently to perform two different functions, like having game controls on the lower screen while showing the actual gameplay on the top, just like the 3DS.

Each tablet will run on Android 3.0 Honeycomb which is a special version of Android specifically designed for tablets. They will be able to do most of the types of things you would expect tablets to do involving accessing media and the internet, but what interests me the most is how these new devices will factor in regards to gaming.

As stated, both tablets are PlayStation Certified which means they will include support for the PlayStation Suite service which we reported on back in January. The PlayStation Suite allows PlayStation Certified Android devices to run a library of PlayStation 1 titles, and was first implemented into Sony’s own Experia Play phone which is largely known as the “PlayStation Phone”.

We speculated at the time that PlayStation Suite was announced that it would be possible the service could eventually come to iOS, and Sony executive Kaz Hirai further affirmed this possibility by stating that they have a “completely open stance” as to which devices and carriers the service may end up on.

Despite this, however, I don’t suspect we’ll ever see the PlayStation Suite come to iOS. First of all are the hurdles we outlined in our article on the subject, namely the fact that Sony would need to give the OK to whatever comes to the PSS service on top of Apple’s already strict approval process, and the need to have devices running PSS be PlayStation Certified, which Apple would most likely have a problem with.

Beyond this though, Sony’s new devices are not only aimed at the consumer tablet market at large but are also specifically aimed at the mobile gaming market with their emphasis on being able to run games and being PlayStation Certified. It’s obvious that Sony wants a piece of the mobile gaming pie that is currently being dominated by the iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, and 3DS. To offer a flagship service like the PlayStation Suite to one of their biggest competitors would seem like an odd move to say the least. Although, Sony has been known to make some odd moves in the past, so I guess anything is possible.

At any rate, these new devices are pretty interesting, and it will be fun to see how this all plays out over the course of this year and next. Let’s not forget that Sony’s new PSP is on the horizon as well, which throws yet another wrinkle into this matter. If one thing’s for certain, there’s never been a better time to be a mobile gamer as the mobile gaming scene continues to expand and evolve at an incredible pace.

[Via Gizmodo and Wall Street Journal]

  • Donald

    Wouldn't mind a new device that isn't polluted by generic and shallow games. Could be interesting.

  • Tim Robertson

    I think this falls under the "Me, too!" category. Remember when Sony was a pioneer, different from the others? Yeah, good times...

    • Kevin Borosky

      When was this? Certainly not since the mid-90's, right? Because everything since then has been a complete ripoff.

      I really wish we could go back to the days of REAL tablet PCs. You know, when they ran full operating systems, rather than being extremely large iPods?

      • Mike

        But steve jobs at the ipad 2 press conference says if we do that no one will buy them, and that all his competitors got it all wrong, remember?

  • Anonymous

    Ugh, bad bad ideas Sony. Focus on the NGP.

    As pertains to their 'standard' iPad like tablet, this space is already overcrowded. We don't need another Tegra 2 tablet with weak consumer adoption numbers that limit the amount of content on the device. I'm guessing a few ports of popular iOS games. The PS Suite will be on there, but lets be real, most games from this era are best left to our memories. Some of the RPGs could be fun, but hardly worth buying a tablet for, especially since they are already available on so many Sony devices.

    The other clamshell tablet will suffer from similar cost/content problems. And also it will suffer from the touch screen controls. The DS has shown that cool things can be done with a dual screen format, but this just looks gimmicky. In what ways do these two folding screens offer anything different than a standard tablet? A developer could just as easily split a normal screen and have the same effect.

    The NGP is Sony's new 'real' portable gaming system. Why they continue to release all of these marginal devices (Xperia Play, PSP Go, etc.) is perplexing, and does nothing but damage the brand. If they want to get in on the casual, cheap app business, develop their own App store, and throw it on Sony phones and the NGP, including access to PSOne titles. Sony, please stop releasing all this hardware!

    • Mister Mumbles

      "...with weak consumer adoption numbers that limit the amount of content on the device."

      So you mean all those other Android apps might be completely useless all of the sudden? Oh, well, shucks! *rolls eyes* Not sure if I'll ever get an Android-powered device myself, but at least they're all pretty much cross-platform compatible as far as apps are concerned. Imagine that.

      • Anonymous

        Hey, I didn't see that these were Android tablets, but the article says they are. Based on the screen I thought Sony was doing their own thing. Still, I stand by my point that the space is overcrowded, and this news is even less interesting after learning these are just regular Android tablets with the ability to play old, crappy PS1 games that would be far more playable on Sony's other gaming hardware.

    • oracle_ab

      Advantage of two screens is that they fold together so you can put the unit away in your pocket. Just sayin'....

  • BazookaTime

    Wonder if PSN will be back up by the time these release.

  • Deamon34

    Another device for Square to re-release it's old games and charge out the ass.

    • Anonymous

      Another excuse for cheapskates to pretend games aren't worth more than a dollar.

    • pye

      get a job!

  • Furtin

    As I stated somewhere else: whats the point of the standard sony-button-layout on a touch device? The only advantage the NGP will have (despite some good games) are the real buttons and analog sticks.

    Flings want do. So meh, I stick with Apple. Poor Sony, no innovation these days ...

    • Anonymous

      Totally. So tired of the digital joy sticks and virtual buttons. Feels like developers fitting a square peg into a round hole. Obviously, for some old games and PS1 titles it is necessary (although, why bother releasing them at all on the platform), but I really wish more developers would experiment with new touchscreen control formats. I have yet to encounter a virtual dpad and buttons that worked really well. Always at the forefront of my mind is whether my fingers are properly positioned.

  • Dave

    If you are a long-time iOS gamer, I think you've noticed how hard it is to play the games designed for physical buttons on a touch device.
    SEGA's emulated games are awful.
    I have to say PlayStation Suite is another wrong move by Sony.

    • SMP

      Take it Leave it, I mean theyre not ideal, but Ive gotten perfectly used to it. I think it's premature to call this a bad move on Sony's part, Though really dont know what to think about the tablet announcement...

    • spidey

      Two genres where physical buttons are possibly required are Platformers and FPS games. No other genre really requires physical buttons IMO. And i play tons of platformers where I am completely used to touch screen controls. Sega didn't work because their emulation is bad. Try games like League of Evil, which I never thought would be any fun with virtual controls, but they are great fun. And given the success of games like NOVA 2 and other FPS's i think the discussion about whether or not buttons are necessary is getting increasingly irrelevant. Buttons, sure, nice to have. But I'd rather carry a iPhone in my Pocket or iPad for a bigger screen in my bag, than a NGP which is mid sized just because of the buttons. I will definitely give NGP a thought when it comes out. But I will not buy it just for the buttons for sure.

      • Dave

        Both NOVA2 and League of Evil are great because they are made for touch device. I'm currently playing World of Goo. It's a great game and I can say it's best for touch device.
        When porting traditional games, developers need to take special considerations for touch device. SquareEnix did a great job at FF3. Cave did a great job at DoDonPachi Ressurection. They redesigned control scheme for a touch device.

  • Read

    I'm sold on the NGP. If I want a tablet the IPAD Jail broken seems to be the clear winner. As for Nintendo 3DS (I bought and thinking on selling it), that is just another DS. Nintendo should have build a more powerful and cooler device, something similar to the NGP on technical spec.

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, I'm picking up an NGP too. I like my 3DS and I'll probably keep it. I mostly bought it for the 3D. It managed to impress me so much I've decided to buy a new gaming computer with 3D vision. At that point I might bail on the 3DS unless some really great titles start coming out.

      • oracle_ab

        I'm not big on 3D popping out at me as I am the reverse, 3D depth w/in the device, like looking at a reflection of mirrors. I'd rather want to "reach into" my device and "pull" something forward or "push" something "back" vs. have something popping out at me that I can do nothing else with.

  • RvW

    lets face it sony wants the most popular titles to migrate over. Game companies are more likely going to move them quickly if they don't have to reprogram the entire input scheme.

  • Michael Schultz

    Wow! Sony is WAY off the mark with their two new mobile devices. First off...why two devices? Second...NOBODY likes touch controls for traditional gaming! #clearlyloosing

  • MoHeyNow

    Try as they might, no company out there can even hope to compete with Apple, I've been a mac fan since the 80's and although a little more expensive it's always like trying to compare a five-star steakhouse with mcdonalds, sure it will fill you up but will never completely satisfy.

    • SMP

      Which one doesnt satisfy? Because you know the latter is far larger and more powerful finacially than any Steakhouse... though Im a vegetarian so Im not inclined to like that analogy. PC's are a perfectly fine competitor/alternative to Mac's, just as Android devices are to iOS, and vice versa, as long as their respective products can achieve a respectably profitable marketshare.

    • Scott Colbert

      Which is why no one manufacturer will beat Apple-but that's irrelevant. Compare all the tablets and phones available and coming out running Android, it's easy to see why projections show Apple being left behind.

    • MoHeyNow

      I guess what I mean to say by "compete" is in class and quality. I could really care less who's making more money (just as long as it's enough to keep the innovative and superior ideas coming, which, in my opinion apple has no equal).

  • Andy Raczynski

    Another portable joke by Sony. Closed loop system, overpriced device, overpriced games. Give it up and spend money on fixing your damn security issues, not rolling out more 'canweplaytoo?' hardware that's worthless out of the gate.

  • Open Source

    Well, I'm an iOS gamer/user too but I have no qualms about virtual controls 😀 Let's look at Sony's entrance positively, folks. The more the competition, the more the innovation. Just because Apple is the tablet king, doesn't mean no one else should try to sell one.
    Good luck to all of them!

  • Read

    OMG... the S2 is what the 3DS should have been but with physical controls and abit smaller:)

    • oracle_ab

      Totally AGREE! The Big N didn't need 3D, they needed to improve on the DSi, which the S2 looks like it would've if it were their idea.

  • DotComCTO

    This doesn't feel like a winner to me. Apple's approach focused on how their tablet could be used to transform everyday computing tasks. For example, they highlighted books, email, browsing, etc, etc. Then they touched on gaming. So, Apple focused on developing broad market appeal in all facets of their device (e.g., industrial design, battery life, ease of use, etc). This got people from all demographics to buy and use their device.

    Sony seems to taking a somewhat opposite approach. They're building a device apparently targeted toward gamers. Yes, that's a large audience, but not as large as Apple's market. In addition, as others have noted, it feels like they're taking a "me too" approach and hoping that people will buy into the "PlayStation Certified" idea. Lastly, it looks like they're building devices that compete with their own existing devices. Why create consumer confusion and cannibalize their own sales?

    I can't even say I'm interested in any Sony portable devices anymore (and I have 2 PSPs).

  • shadowsfall

    I'm fine with the S1, but the S2 looks awkward. I suppose it could be beneficial for a miniature sized laptop, but that's about all.

  • E_Domina

    looks like it will do well for the user but in the market, it will fail to the ipad. i feel some tablets are better than the ipad but it just cant compete with it

  • dagamer34

    Innovation never came without a few stumbles. Tablet race should be interesting...

  • Freezecook

    Ugh, pass. Looks like a DS/iPad fusion. The NGP, on the other hand, has class. I won't give these knock-offs a chance, but I'm getting that NGP.

  • Anonymous

    OMG, it's got 2 screens!

  • Stewart Cook

    IF (and it's a MASSIVE if) Sony makes this device compatible with Mac as well as PC then sure, I'll look at it. But considering how utterly horrendous it has been to get their phones, PSP's and mini-disc players to run on a Mac without a heap of pissfarting about, then this will likely be another device, from my once favourite consumer electronics maker, that I don't bother with.