BBC News

Sony to launch Android tablets

image captionSony released illustrations of the two devices but said the final designs could change

Sony has announced that it plans to launch two tablet computers running Google's Android operating system.

The devices, codenamed S1 and S2, will go on sale towards the end of the year.

Android is currently the fastest growing mobile platform and is expected to claim a 38% market share by 2015.

Sony's entry into the tablet market was much anticipated, but comes relatively late in the day compared to other manufacturers.

Apple launched its first version of the industry-leading iPad in April 2010.

Its iOS system is expected to remain dominant for several years to come, albeit with a diminished share of sales.

Sony said that its first tablets would come in two form factors: one will have a conventional 9.4 inch touchscreen, while the other will feature dual 5.5 inch displays that fold closed.

In addition to the base Android Honeycomb operating system, Sony will add several of its own features, including the ability to transmit video and music to TVs and stereos using the DLNA wireless streaming standard.

The company suggested that there would also be some form of integration with its PlayStation network and the possibility of gaming functions.

Branding questions

The strength of the Sony name will likely help the electronics giant to gain some traction in the fragmented tablet market.

Faced with scores of similar devices running the same Android software, recognised brands have become an important way of differentiating quality.

However, Gartner tablet analyst Carolina Milanesi expressed surprise at the company's decision to identify the devices as purely Sony.

"It is interesting that they come in with the Sony brand rather than Sony Ericsson," she told BBC News.

"That raises questions about what they are going to do to link their tablets to their smartphone operating system because tablet users are going to want that same experience."

Ms Milanesi suggested that Sony's tablet success would depend on whether the technical specifications looked as good when the devices eventually launch as they do now.

She said that several manufacturers, including HP, had fallen into the trap of announcing machines that bested their competition, only to find that they looked less than competitive by the time they went on sale.

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