Sony Corp. (6758) introduced its first tablet computers, following Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) and Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. (MMI) in their pursuit of Apple Inc., a year after the iPad spurred a surge in demand for the devices.
The maker of Vaio laptops will use Google Inc. (GOOG)’s Android operating system for the tablets, Kunimasa Suzuki, Sony’s head of personal computers, said in Tokyo today. The models, whose prices weren’t disclosed, would go on sale in autumn, the company said in a statement.
Sony is last among the world’s top 10 laptop makers to unveil tablet plans, aiming to capitalize on surging demand for a product category that research firm Strategy Analytics forecasts will grow to $49 billion by 2015. The late entry may undermine the company’s ability to challenge Samsung’s Galaxy Tab or the iPad, according to Deutsche Bank AG.
“Sony should have entered at least when Samsung introduced its first tablet computers,” said Yasuo Nakane, a Tokyo-based analyst at Deutsche Bank. “They spent too much time on their own features. A quick entry like Samsung was required and I don’t think Sony can catch Samsung this year.”
Sony’s S1 model will feature a 9.4-inch liquid-crystal display, as well as front and rear cameras. The S2 laptop-shaped model will have dual 5.5-inch screens and feature cameras, the company said. Apple’s iPad has a 9.7-inch screen.
“They have got an opportunity, they really need to execute,” Jay Defibaugh, an analyst at MF Global FXA Securities in Tokyo, said about Sony. “I would definitely not call it an iPad-killer. There’s nothing out there that is an iPad-killer right now.
The Japanese electronics maker aims to become the largest manufacturer of tablets that run on Android software by 2012, Suzuki said. Sony will try to introduce a tablet that uses Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)’s Windows software by the yearend, he said.
Sony, which expects the global tablet-computer market to reach annual sales of between 50 million and 60 million units this year, and between 70 million and 80 million next year, is also considering developing a three-dimensional model, he said.
Suzuki said Sony isn’t late into the market.
“Demand for tablets is still small,” Suzuki told reporters. “We aim to attract consumers out there, who haven’t purchased one.”
The latest version of the iPad went on sale in the U.S. on March 11, equipped with cameras and a more powerful processor, starting at $499. Apple led the market by selling a total of 14.8 million iPads through December, generating $9.6 billion in sales since its introduction in April last year. Samsung, maker of the Galaxy Tab, ranks second behind Apple.
Tablet sales surged to more than 10.3 million units last year from 90,000 in 2009, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. That rate of adoption tops those of game consoles and smartphones, according to the Arlington, Virginia-based trade organization.
Apple will likely maintain its dominance in the tablet market until 2012 because of advantages in marketing, content and pricing, research firm IHS ISuppli said earlier this month. Shipments of other media tablets will likely reach 111 million units in 2013, overtaking the estimated 81 million iPad sales, according to the researcher.
Samsung, Sony’s bigger rival in televisions, unveiled a new tablet running the latest version of Android software in February.
Sprint Nextel Corp. and Verizon (VZ) Wireless earlier this month cut the price of the Samsung’s Galaxy Tab tablet computer for the second time this year, signaling more competition for Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s iPad. The devices now cost $199.99 with a two-year wireless-service contract, according to the carriers.
In January, Sony said it aims to win second position in the market for tablet devices next year.
Last year, Sony was the world’s ninth-largest maker of laptop computers, excluding tablets, with a 4.2 percent share of the market, according to Bryan Ma, Singapore-based analyst at IDC. Apple ranked eighth with a 4.9 percent share.
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