The Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) iPad controls around 80 percent of the tablet market, which has seen just in the last month one high-profile casualty, the HP (NYSE: HPQ) TouchPad, fall in the face of competition. But that is not stopping the rush of device makers looking to launch products to gain a foothold in the game: today sees the launch of two new tablets from Sony (NYSE: SNE) and a new device from HTC, all based on Android.
The HTC tablet — initially reported as the Puccini but branded “Jetstream” in the U.S. — will be offered exclusively by AT&T (NYSE: T), which says in a release it will start to sell the devices online and in retail stores from September 4. It will be the first LTE-based tablet on offer from the operator.
It is also the first tablet from HTC to run on Google’s tablet-optimised version of Android, Honeycomb.
With a 10.1-inch HD screen, the device is on the large side, and so is the price: $699.99 with a two-year contract at either $14.99 or $25 per month, depending on how much data you want. AT&T notes that it will also offer the Jetstream with a subsidized price — a first for AT&T — when a buyer takes the $35-per-month contract option (subsidized prices have yet to be disclosed).
Meanwhile, over in Germany today Sony — not Sony Ericsson (NSDQ: ERIC) — finally unveiled its first two tablets, which it had first announced at the beginning of the year: the asymmetrically designed “S” (designed to be more natural to hold, says Sony) and the clamshell-shaped “P” — two of the rare attempts that we have seen of an OEM playing around with the form factor of the tablet, and not simply imitating the iPad.
Specifications aside — 1 GHz processors and other features have largely become table stakes in the new wave of tablets — perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of Sony’s two devices is how much the company has tried to integrate its many other products and services into the device.
That’s a trend that we will probably start to see a lot more, as Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) reportedly gears up for its own tablet launch, and Apple continues to develop software and services that work in the iOS ecosystem. It also goes some way to explaining why companies like HTC and Motorola (NYSE: MMI) have invested in companies to help them beef up their own entertainment ecosystems.
On the software side, this includes access to Sony’s Qriocity cloud-based digital entertainment services, including Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited; PlayStation games; Sony Reader e-books; and a picture service called “Personal Space” that links up with Sony cameras. On the hardware side, the tablets link up to Sony’s TVs and speakers and can be used as a remote control with its Blu-ray Disc players.
Unlike the HTC Jetstream, it does not appear that Sony has gone the route of operator partnerships in launching this device, preferring instead to control distribution through its consumer electronics sales channel.