Sony unveils two iPad rivals

Sony has introduced its first tablet computers, joining Samsung Electronics and Motorola in their pursuit of Apple, a year after the iPad spurred a surge in demand for the devices.

Sony will use Google's Android operating system for the personal computers, Kunimasa Suzuki, Sony's head of personal computers, said in Tokyo today. The 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, Sony said.

The new tablets will be available globally in "fall 2011", which in the northern hermisphere is September this year, Sony said.

The Japanese electronics maker aims to compete in the crowdedmarket for tablet computers, the fastest-growing segment of the consumer-electronics industry. Tablet PC sales will reach $US49 billion by 2015 as consumers flock to devices that bridge the gap between smartphones and laptops, according to estimates this month by research firm Strategy Analytics.

Apple's iPad 2 debuted in the U.S. on March 11, equipped with cameras and a more powerful processor, starting at $US499. Apple sold a total of 14.8 million iPads through December, generating $US9.6 billion in sales since its introduction in April last year.

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's Lead

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. The model has a screen matching the iPad's 10-inch display and is 10.9-millimeters thick, compared with 8.8 millimeters for the iPad 2.

In January, Sony said it aims to win second position in the market for tablet devices next year.