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Apple v Sony – let battle commence

When the Apple iPad was launched I noted that it was more of a gadget than a serious office tool. I also predicted that it would be a big seller. In the event, I suspect that even the ebullient Steve Jobs will have been taken by surprise. In the first year from launch Apple shifted about 20 million units; not too shabby when you consider that number equates to over £4 billion in revenue. Apple has also already launched version 2 of the iPad. 

This dramatic commercial success has not gone unnoticed by Apple’s rivals; virtually every PC manufacturer has at least one tablet computer somewhere in their product range. The most significant entrant into the fray is Sony which has just launched not one, but two tablet PCs. The first, the S1, has a 9½ inch touch screen and is similar to the iPad in size and feel. There is also an S2 which has a clamshell design and two 5½ inch screens similar to the Nintendo DS. The S2 is also a mobile communications device giving it the capability of a Smartphone. Both models will have access to Sony’s Qriosity media service which enables music and video streaming, PlayStation Suite which allows users to play PS games on the move and access to Sony’s Reader ebook store – this basically turns them into the equivalent of the Amazon Kindle. Interestingly, Sony has opted to use the Google Android operating system which is the most widely used Smartphone operating system.

This decision represents a seismic shift in the world of the portable computer. For almost twenty years laptops, or notebooks as they are known in the States, have simply been portable versions of the common or garden PC. But the way they are used, particularly by the younger generation, has changed beyond all recognition. Think what your kids do when they borrow your laptop – they will be on Facebook, or watching the latest episode of Doctor Who on iPlayer, or playing a game. Everything is recreational; everything is linked to the internet, only under extreme duress will you find your child typing up an essay for homework. This has been the key to the success of the iPad. It is not so much a computer as a multimedia entertainment console. With the ubiquitous iTunes music and video library and the App Store with however many tens of thousands of software applications it now boasts, Apple offers the content to go with the hardware. The touch screen and accelerometer technology which detects physical movements of the computer also make the iPad a superlative mobile gaming console.

 Sony is going to have its work cut out if it is going to go up against the iPad but, in theory, should be more than up to the battle. As an electronics manufacturer Sony is a long established global giant with a solid reputation for quality. In partnership with Ericsson, Sony is one of the world’s largest mobile phone manufacturers. Sony has a sprawling media empire encompassing music and film and, as for computer gaming, I will just say one word – PlayStation! The tie up with Google via the Android operating system is also a smart move with both companies benefiting from the relationship.

 However, all is not well at Sony. They were slow to switch their focus to Smartphones allowing Apple to overtake them in terms of market share. The theft of the personal data of over 100 million PlayStation and media customers has made Sony a dirty word among tech savvy consumers. Most of all, where the PlayStation was a market leading product, the S1 and S2 tablet computers are arriving rather late at the party. Sony very much needs its new tablets to be winners; it’s too early to say whether they will be or not. All I will say is that they’re going to have to be seriously good.

Technology article provided by Walmley Pages, Sutton Coldfield community magazine advertising local business to the Sutton Coldfield public


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