Sony May Have a Honey of a Tablet in the Works

It appears that Sony is definitely planning to join the tablet wars: Its CEO Howard Stringer told the Nikkei newspaper that the company was planning to deliver a Honeycomb-based tablet no later than the end of the year, and possibly, according to some versions of his comments, as soon as this summer.

If accurate, a Sony tablet — especially one geared to the gaming market as this development appears to be — could well realign the still nascent but fast-growing tablet market. There is the Sony name, for starters, and its deep expertise with gaming. Then there is the fact that its tablet reportedly will run the Android Honeycomb OS.

Sony did not respond to LinuxInsider’s request for comment by press time.

Curved, Not Straight

Perhaps most interestingly, there is also talk that this tablet will sport a design different from the typical flat-backed tablet form factor. It will be gently curved, similar to an open book, rumor has it. Other tidbits reported but not confirmed by Sony: The screen will be 9.4-inches and it will include the PlayStation suite.

Whether such a device could challenge the inarguable leader in this space, Apple’s iPad, is still an unknown, Steven Baker, VP of Industry analysis for NPD, told LinuxInsider. “There is very little current relevant product out there to make a judgment. Xoom has only been on the market for a few weeks, and there are no Honeycomb tablets to speak of on the market right now.”

Also, Sony might not want to focus its tablet solely on the gaming market, he cautioned. “The iPad has already proven to be a strong gaming platform, so I don’t see how that alone will give Sony differentiation.”

It is necessary to get development and game providers on board if Sony is serious about becoming “the” gaming tablet, he added.

Ignoring the iPad?

Of course, Sony may not be thinking about competing with the iPad at all, speculated Peter Eckert, chief creative officer of Projekt202.

Gaming for touch tablets is very new, and games that specifically target that type of device are just emerging, he told LinuxInsider. Also, Sony will probably want to integrate its own gaming marketplace that it has through PlayStation 3.

” I don’t think a Sony tablet will be a serious challenger for the iPad at first, but if people keep using it for games only or mostly, then they might just have a new following, and it might not be intended to be an iPad challenger,” Eckert said.

The Sony Ecosystem

Given Sony’s deep bench of IT expertise, there is every reason to think the company might wind up building a multifunction tablet, said Azita Arvani of the Arvani Group.

“Sony could build an amazing tablet that can differentiate itself from the multitude of other tablets by bringing synergies across Sony’s many device and content categories,” she told LinuxInsider.

Sony has all the elements in place, she said — notebook/netbook functionality, hardware design expertise, the PlayStation console and games, the Reader, and a media player that has access to Sony’s Qriocity and other music and audio services.

“Other major iPad rivals, including Samsung and Motorola, do not have such an extensive array of in-house capabilities as Sony does,” noted Arvani.

There will be some challenges, she said, one being wringing out all of these in-house synergies while avoiding internal turf battles. Another will be how to best position such a device: Will it be a gaming tablet or a media tablet?

Also, Sony fans will want to know how it relates to and interacts with other Sony devices, such has the Vaio notebooks/netbooks, PlayStation devices, Sony Readers and Sony Ericsson mobile devices.

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