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4 Reasons to Think Sony May Have a Winner With Its S1 PlayStation Tablet

A leaked report suggests that Sony is finally getting into the portable computer race with the 'S1' PlayStation tablet. According to "two trusted sources" at Engadget, the Google (GOOG) Android tablet is expected in September for $599 -- $100 more than the current Apple (APPL) iPad.

Sony's definitely late to the game, but it's still got a hole card or two:

1. The flap design
Engadget's sources had a few technical details on the S1:

  • Tegra 2 processor
  • 9.4-inch touchscreen
  • 1,280 x 800 pixel resolution
  • It will use a modified version of Honeycomb, the Android platform created with tablets in mind
  • Front and back cameras
  • USB port
  • Minimal buttons, a la the iPad
  • IR port to connect it to television
The most interesting design decision is the "wrap flap," a flexible cover attached to one side of the S1 much the way the heavier paper of a magazine cover is stapled to to the magazine itself. Engadget says the cover is strong enough to keep the tablet upright for angled typing, yet it
also makes one-handed operation a bit less taxing on the wrist by shifting the center of gravity to the bulbous edge of the device... So even though the S1 is about the same size and weight as Apple's iPad, we're told that it feels lighter since most of the weight is shifted directly into the user's hand and over the wrist.
Compare this to the iPad, Motorola (M) Xoom, or nearly any other tablet today, none of which have anything like this. If Engadget's description is accurate -- and it's worth noting that no one at the site seems to have actually seen the wrap flap -- it could potentially make the S1 a much better device for reading, playing games or whatever.

Of course, the feature might also be easily copied if it's successful. But hey, even a momentary advantage is worth having in this market.

2. It's supported by multiple Sony teams
Sony is notorious for keeping its development teams separate and even stoking competition between them (as shown in the current PlayStation phone versus PlayStation portable debacle). However, the S1 reportedly has cooperation from the VAIO, Reader, PlayStation, and Sony Ericsson product groups. This can only bode well for the S1's integration of different Sony software.

Of course, all that really means is that maybe Sony has decided to stop shooting itself in the head with the development of this product. We'll have to see if that's enough.

3. Sony will have the only portable console tablet
The S1 is a PlayStation tablet, so games will be a big selling point. What's interesting is that no other console developer is yet taking their games directly to tablets:

  • Nintendo (NTYDO) has steered clear of tablets, focusing on small portable gaming like the Nintendo 3DS
  • Microsoft has tablets on the market, but it is yet to bring its significant XBox library to them -- and many of its partners, like HP, have left to create their own platform
4. Sony's cloud system Qriocity
Sony is behind when it comes to iPad-style tablets, but it's ahead of its competitors with the new media cloud system Qriocity. Launched late last year, Qriocity is a streaming service that gives unlimited music and movies for a monthly membership fee ($9.99/month for music, with movies launching later this year).

So far, so good. On the other hand, Qriocity is new enough that we don't have any idea if anyone's actually using it yet, and it certainly doesn't have the buzz that competing systems do.

Sony may also have to move fast to capitalize on its advantage here. Apple could finally move its dated iTunes platform to the cloud this year when it launches the iPhone Nano, and Sony's jump into the modern tablet race is another reason for it to make the leap.

Photo courtesy of hyku // CC 2.0