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Will Sony's Tablet S Delight Customers?


Sony had a big new product launch this past weekend. It debuted a new tablet called the S. The new device is critical for Sony. The consumer electronics giant has been having a rough year. Its factories were damaged by the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan. It suffered a string of attacks from hackers, and Sony's earning and profits have fallen.

To see whether the new tablet can give Sony a lift, we called up Bloomberg tech columnist, Rich Jaroslovsky. He's taken the new device for a spin and he joined us from Stanford, California to talk more about it. Rich, good morning.


GREENE: So how important is this product launch to Sony?

JAROSLOVSKY: It's very important. It brings together a lot of pieces of Sony. Sony is a very, very large company with a lot of disparate businesses that sometimes feel as though they're operating in separate silos. And so what I think this represents is a way to try to bring together stuff. There are movie and music apps on it that call on Sony's vast library of content that it owns. It will play PlayStation games. It even has an app on it that turns it into one of Sony's sort of super high-end universal remote controls, so you can control not just Sony equipment but all your home electronic equipment with it.

GREENE: So I'm holding something the size of a magazine, and I'm pushing buttons that change the channels on my television.

JAROSLOVSKY: Yes. And there's some people I know who love those universal remote controls because all the controls it gives them over all the pieces of electronics that surrounded by.

GREENE: And how does it work? I mean were you impressed with the functions? Did you have some complaints?

JAROSLOVSKY: I was very impressed, first of all, that Sony took some risks. When you see it you won't mistake it for a Samsung Galaxy tablet, or for an iPad, for that matter. I had a few issues with it, however, because it feels a little cheaply made. One way they got it so light is that they used a lot of plastic. I didn't like the way that the power cord hooks up to it. I kept accidentally yanking it out, which is something that I don't think you'd ever see on an Apple product.


JAROSLOVSKY: So the execution felt, to me, a little bit slipshod.

GREENE: You know, there's a story that former Apple CEO John Sculley tells, about one of Sony's founders giving Steve Jobs one of the first Sony Walkmans and Jobs was just fascinated about it. And, you know, later he - Steve Jobs - puts out the iPod. Apple obviously learned something from Sony. Are we at a point now where Apple is teaching Sony how to release products like this?

JAROSLOVSKY: Well, I think that you had, you know, it wasn't that long ago that Sony was Apple. Sony was one of the most valuable brands in the world. What they kind of need to relearn from Apple is the ability to delight. Now the definition of what delights consumers has changed in the last 10 or 15 years. Sony has had a hard time keeping up, but that's what they need to learn from Apple.

GREENE: You know, Rich, some stories about the market just being very open. I mean more and more people, in huge numbers, are going to want these tablets, and so there is opportunity there. If you are a company like Sony, how do you make sure to be different enough that people will want your product over the iPad, but also take advantage of the some of the things that clearly the iPad has?

JAROSLOVSKY: Sony is beginning to answer that question by bringing together the various pieces of its businesses. They're about to come out with a second tablet that folds, and there's a top screen and a bottom screen. You can run separate apps on the top and bottom of the screens. Again, they're trying to innovate. They're trying to give people reasons to buy their particular tablet as opposed to any one of the many other Android tablets that are hitting the market.

GREENE: We've been learning about Sony's new tablet, the S, from Rich Jaroslovsky, who is the technology columnist for Bloomberg News. Rich, thanks a lot.

JAROSLOVSKY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.