Sony's Tablet Reveal: Too Little, Too Late

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Sony's tablets, the S1 and S2, may seem promising on paper, but they're just more smoke and mirrors from another company that's late to the tablet party.

Sony gets credit for being unique. The 9.4-inch S1 tablet has an off-balance design with a wedged shape, and the S2 tablet has a clamshell design with two 5.5-inch screens. Both tablets run first-generation PlayStation games, Reader books and Qriocity music and video services. You can get the full spec rundown here.

But more noticeable is what Sony didn't reveal. There's no price and no launch date beyond "fall." There's no thorough explanation of what games will be supported, unless you count 15 year-old PlayStation I games. Most important, there's only scant evidence of the tablets in action, with prototypes safely trapped behind glass at a Tokyo press conference. Make no mistake, Sony's tablets are far from finished.

We've been down this road before. In September, Research in Motion announced the BlackBerry PlayBook, but didn't have any working models to show. And what did we get in April? A promising, unfinished product. At CES in January, Motorola announced the Xoom, but was only demonstrating pre-loaded videos on the show floor. And what did we get in March? A promising, unfinished product. I don't want to judge the S1 and S2 tablets now, because that would be premature, but Sony should know better than to announce an incomplete tablet at least five months before launch.

Why do these companies do it? Because the next time they have an earnings call, they can point to these announcements and say, "Hey, we're not completely ignoring tablets!" Whether that satisfies investors is not my concern, but consumers shouldn't get carried away by early, empty promises.

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