Tablets

Sony Tablet S2 revives the idea of dual-screen productivity

With all of the Android tablets starting to look alike, Sony is taking a different spin. In fact, Sony's S2 could revive some of the cool concepts introduced by the Microsoft Courier and OLPC XO-2.

My biggest complaint with most of the tablets coming to market in 2011 -- especially most of the Android Honeycomb tablets -- is that they all start to look alike and many of them are just poor imitations of the Apple iPad. Six months from now, the Android tablet market is going to look a lot like the laptop section at Best Buy, with a whole bunch of nearly-identical systems sporting different logos.

For that reason alone, I like that Sony is experimenting with something a little different -- now that it has announced its official tablet plans -- and it's also reviving a concept that deserved another look.

On Tuesday, Sony unveiled two devices, the Sony Tablet S1 and the Sony Tablet S2, both of which will be available globally this fall in 3G and Wi-Fi models. The S1 and S2 monikers are just codenames; the whizbang product names will be announced later.

The S1 is a 9.4-inch Android Honeycomb tablet that looks a lot like the Motorola Xoom and the T-Mobile G-Slate from the front, but the back has a sloped curve design that's meant to make it easier to hold with either one hand or two.

However, the S2 is the one that really piqued my interest. It features dual 5.5-inch touchscreens that can be used together as one screen, used for two separate tasks, or used in partnership with one screen serving as the viewer and the other as the control mechanism. The dual screen tablet concept has generated excitement before with the Microsoft Courier and the OLPC XO-2 (neither of which ever materialized). Products such as the Acer Iconia have kludged together attempts at the concept, but haven't nailed it. Meanwhile, Sony has now committed to deliver a real, dual-screen, multitouch tablet in the coming months. And, while it may be limited to 5.5-inch screens for now, if it's successful it could certainly expand into something closer to the Courier.

View the full gallery of S1 and S2 photos. Photo credit: Sony

One of the reasons that Sony could succeed where other would-be iPad competitors are failing is that Sony appears to understand that tablets are about user experience and not about hardware specs. When I got Sony's message earlier this morning about its tablet announcement, I was thrilled to see that it didn't waste a bunch of time talking about the camera megapixels or processor megahertz. Instead, Sony's message emphasized "optimal usability and performance" and "smooth, quick touch-screen operations" and "fast and efficient website loading" and an on-screen keyboard that's optimized for the screen size and the tasks.

Sony has been reeling lately and not competing very well in consumer electronics or computers, so the company has a lot to prove. Nevertheless, none of the iPad competitors are knocking anyone's socks off, so the door is still wide open. And, Sony is approaching tablets the right way by doing something a  little different and focusing on the user experience. These two tablets are worth keeping an eye, especially the S2. While the S1 and S2 are aimed squarely at consumers, the dual-screen productivity of the S2 could certainly trigger

Take a look at the Sony video below to get a quick glance at the S1 and the S2.

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About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

11 comments
kerem34
kerem34

Lately we get a lot vague rhetoric and beautiful play of words from bloggers and pundits without much substance to what they truly want to convey. oyu

jstribling
jstribling

Yes, I too am /shaking head [sic] and /moving on [sic], for the purveyors of technology are simply tone-deaf to what we really want: a handheld Cray with 360-degree holographic projection system, surround sound, and Higgs Boson detector. I want HUGE blocks of RAM, multiple drives, direct satellite uplink and onboard color laser printer. And oh, yes, a cold fusion based energy cell for power with a molten sodium heat sink. Yeah, now that's MY idea of technology!! When are these people going to start paying attention to ME?!? And this idea of carrying multiple devices? Preposterous! Everything should ultimately be fused into one uber-device that will slice, dice, communicate, navigate, educate, entertain, and absorb 27 times its own weight in excess stomach acid. Wait a minute, isn't that kind of like the pod in 'The Matrix'? When is somebody going to make a pod into which I can thoroughly ensconce myself? As long as it has HUGE blocks of RAM...

dospaff
dospaff

My beef with these devices are that the cell phone providers are offerring these devices and are not allowing you to make phone calls on them. I don't want to have to carry a phone and a tablet. Just one or the other. Will the Sony tabs be able to make a freaking phone call????!!!

fgranier
fgranier

they need a doking station for the office.

brantmills
brantmills

I know - people get tired of hearing detractors, but I still think it needs to be said. I'm sure people have devised some use for these, but rather than gimpy, wannabe consumer-lite products missing key features and filled with proprietary garbage, I REALLY want someone to develop an extremely high-end portable workstation. I need something can handle crazy bandwidth, Multiple high-volume, high-speed drives and hold blazing fast multi-core multi-threaded processors and huge blocks of ram. I'd love a mobile video editing/compositing workhorse with dual Xeons or i7 970+ processors (or hex cores from AMD) - but there simply aren't any available anywhere from any vendor (likely due to cooling issues.) I don't understand why R&D is focused on force-feeding us silly little products when they could resolve those issues with newer designs and could leap-frog all their competitors with a high horsepower laptop that would blow everything on the market out of the water. If there was a machine that was mobile, not loaded with crapware and came pre-loaded with 10x the horsepower and broadly compatible it would sell itself silly. If it came pre-loaded to dual-boot windows and some user-friendly version of Linux, consumers would pay any-price because of the flexibility, stability and options it could provide. What gets me is that it shouldn't be that difficult to pull off. /shaking head /moving on

graeme
graeme

What about the toshiba w100 last year? Yet another story about another badge doing what has already been done, guess when apple does it in 4 or 5 years, it will be they invented it.

doug.montgomery
doug.montgomery

I have a bunch of users that require everywhere connectivity and a useable device. THe CPU, RAM, or local storage is irrelivant. They use the device to access thier desktop... At the home office using remote desktop/VDI. When they hit thier home office, they pop the thing in a dock hooked to a physical mouse, keyboard, and a 24" wide screen and they are working on a virtual desktop with a PC feel. I dont worry about corp data loss, its all on the virtual servers. Support of remote users is a snap, I just remote into thier sessions. I also already have the ability to wipe the device if it gets lost. I am just wondering whether it will be a smartphone or a tablet will fufill this need.

T3CHN0M4NC3R
T3CHN0M4NC3R

Because this is where the giants get to dupe consumers into bleeding all their hard earned money into these so called silly products. They are generally affordable and fun to use. We IT folks aren't the mass users of these so called silly products but that's why they sell well.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

the Acer Iconia is that they primarily rely on Windows, with just a few UI enhancements tacked on. Doing a dual screen tablet requires a more fundmental re-think of the user experience in order to really take advantage of the potential benefits and not just turn the lower screen into a semi-permanent on-screen keyboard.

derry1406
derry1406

Could you do me a great favour by pinpointing the potential benefits...as stated in your submission ..... "Doing a dual screen tablet requires a more fundmental re-think of the user experience in order to really take advantage of the potential benefits and not just turn the lower screen into a semi-permanent on-screen keyboard.". Lately we get a lot vague rhetoric and beautiful play of words from bloggers and pundits without much substance to what they truly want to convey.

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