Sony Tablet S and Tablet P take aim at the iPad

Sony Tablet S, Tablet P

Sony is finally throwing its weight into the tablet market, today formally announcing its Tablet S and Tablet P Android tablet offerings. Sony has taken its time to launch a tablet, and their first two offerings are distinct from the herd of Android-based slates that are beginning to litter retailers shelves. The Tablet S features a unique wedge-shaped design with a 9.4-inch display, while the Tablet P sports an intriguing folding design with two 5.5-inch displays, designed to make the tablet more easily portable.

“These devices truly represent the best of everything Sony has to offer,” said Sony Electronics networked technology and services VP Mike Lucas, in a statement. “From hardware to software and services, Sony Tablet devices embody all our innovations rolled into one.”

Sony Tablet S

Both Sony tablets are built around a 1 GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 processor. The Tablet S features a wedge-shaped design that’s a bit reminiscent of a magazine folded back on itself—Sony says that makes the tablet more comfortable for long-term use. The Tablet S sports a 9.4-inch 1,280 by 800-pixel capacitive touchscreen display, and sports 1 GB of RAM, 16 or 32 GB of onboard flash storage, 802.11b/g/n WI-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR wireless networking, a 5 megapixel rear-facing camera for video and photography plus a VGA-resolution front-facing camera for video chat. The Tablet S offers expandable storage via an SD card slot, and there’s a headphone port, microUSB port, along with a stereo 3.5mm mini jack for a mic. The Tablet S weighs 1.33 pounds. Sony is sending a few mixed messages on the version of Android included in the device: spec sheets say Android 3.0, but Sony’s PR materials all say Android 3.1.

Sony Tablet P

The Tablet P, on the other hand, aims to be even more portable, featuring a unique folding design with two 5.5-inch displays and a total weight of 0.83 pounds: fold it up, and it drops more easily into a purse or backpack then a full-fledged 10-inch tablet. The Tablet P will feature Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, but will also be available with a 4G option from AT&T. Sony says the Tablet P will be running Android 3.2 when it ships.

However, for Sony, the hardware is only part of the story: they’re backing up their tablets with detail-intensive design and cloud-based services. Sony promises the Tablet S and Tablet P will offer faster loading of Web pages thanks to Quick view and Quick Touch technologies, and the tablets feature large-keyed virtual keyboard for easier messaging and text entry—they even have a numeric keypad for entering passwords.

Sony Tablet P

The tablets will also be able to tap into new Video Unlimited and Music Unlimited offerings from Sony: Video Unlimited will aim to offer the latest releases from every studio to rent or to own; the service is soft-launching with the Sony tablets, with an eye towards making the content offerings truly “unlimited” over time. Music Unlimited, due to launch in October, will provide access to a catalog of over 10 million songs—exact numbers will vary by country. The tablets will ship with a six-month trial membership and a free movie download.

Both tablets will be PlayStation certified (meaning they’ll be able to play versions of Crash Bandicoot and Pinball Heroes right out of the box), plus the tablets will be able to access the 2.5 million book and periodical titles at Sony’s Reader Store. And, just to make sure people can mange their own photos, videos, and music, Sony will be offering a free Personal Space cloud-base service to enable video and photo sharing from Sony Tablet devices; users will also be able to access image and video albums uploaded from other devices.

The Sony Tablets are DLNA-compatible—so users will be able to “throw” content from a PlayStation or a Sony Bravia TV to their tablets—and the Tablet S has IR capabilities so it can act as a remote control.

Pre-orders for the Tablet S are open now, with the 16 GB version priced at an iPad-matching $499 and the 32 GB version going for $599—the units should land at retail locations next month. The Tablet P will be available “later this year,” and Sony hasn’t announced any pricing.

Sony Tablet S