Good news: Sony making a tablet for $599. Bad news: “Sony is busy customizing” the Honeycomb UI

February 16, 2011 | by Michael Heller

Sony Tablets

Sony S1 tablet

Two things we knew would happen, but only one that we were hoping for. Sony has told Engadget that they are working on a Honeycomb tablet, the S1, which they plan to bring to market in September for $599. The price point is the best part of the story, because even though no specs were released other than the 9.4″ screen size and a Tegra 2, it’s good to hear that manufacturers won’t be battling in the $800 range on tablets.

The Engadget source said that the VAIO team will be in charge of developing the tablet, but likely won’t carry the VAIO name. My guess would be that they continue the Xperia name, but that is unconfirmed. Sony also said that engineers from VAIO, Reader, PlayStation, and Sony Ericsson would be on the project. The tablet will focus on Sony’s Qriosity service which includes a streaming music service and a video-on-demand service. The tablet will also come pre-loaded with a Bravia Media Remote, PSOne games and PlayStation integration, though it’s unclear what that integration may be.

The troubling part of the story is of course that “Sony is busy customizing Matias Duarte’s Honeycomb interface to its own specification.” This was probably expected, but certainly not a welcome sentence to read. But, manufacturers seem to be set in the fact that physically the only way to build a tablet is as a plain dark rectangle, so obviously the only way to differentiate will be to start putting custom UIs in there. On a bright note, Sony will not be following the pack and putting out another plain dark rectangle. The mockup above shows what they call a “wrap” design. Sony says it will remind people of holding a book, but personally it looks like it will remind me of the Notion Ink Adam.

It will be interesting to see if Sony hits their release date and price point. I just hope their custom UI is more baked in services than a full skin.