Ina Fried

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Sony’s Tablet Reveal Leaves Many Questions Unanswered

Sony held a pair of events in San Francisco and New York this week designed to elaborate on its Android tablet plans, but the events raised more questions than they answered.

First of all, Sony didn’t answer the main things people like to know about a product — when it will launch and how much it will cost. Sony also didn’t share most of the technical details. And while reporters were able to get their hands on the device, they didn’t let us use much more than the main screen.

The event served largely as a chance for those of us in the U.S. to get up close with the devices that Sony announced back in April at an event in Japan.

That’s not to say we didn’t learn anything about the company’s plans. On the connectivity side, Sony disclosed that AT&T will be the exclusive carrier of the dual-screen S2 model, which will run on its HSPA+ network. The large-screen S1 tablet will be Wi-Fi only, while the S2 won’t be sold in a Wi-Fi only format.

Sony also explained how it hopes to stand out from the Android pack — unique design and connection to Sony’s online services, including PlayStation content as well as such unique hardware features as a “quick view” feature that aims to speed up Web page loading.

While reporters didn’t get to play around on their own with the tablets’ built-in software, the company’s demo showed a bit more, including a few of those “uniquely Sony” features, such as its own music- and movie-playing program. The custom music app shows a song’s lyrics and lets you navigate by clicking on those lyrics. There’s a nifty universal remote app that Sony says should work with other makes of hardware in addition to Sony gear.

Reporters also managed to get the company to divulge or hint at a few of the technical details. The current prototypes are running the initial 3.0 version of Honeycomb, though Sony says it may well update the software closer to release. Also, the S1 appears to use some new screen technology, though Sony wouldn’t go into any details on that.

Sony didn’t give a date for either tablet’s release, but did indicate it is still on track for later this year. When asked if that meant a delay from the previously announced fall launch, the company said there has been no delay and it will come in fall. The big question, of course, is what else Sony will be competing against beyond the time its tablets hit the market.

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