Review: With Tablet S, I Worry About Sony

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Jared Newman

Considering the weight of Sony’s PlayStation brand, gaming should’ve been a bigger part of the Tablet S. The entire PS Store consists of 10 games for the original PlayStation. Some are free, and some are $6 each, but all are hopelessly outdated next to the shiny graphics and keen design of modern video games. A lone PSP game, Pinball Heroes, is pre-loaded on the device, along with the PSOne classic Crash Bandicoot. But for now, Sony hasn’t made any effort to adapt its hits, such as Uncharted, Killzone, Ratchet & Clank or Infamous, to the tablet.

Even getting these games that are available is a challenge. The PS Store isn’t pre-loaded, and an option to download it only appears as a periodic notification message. If you dismiss it by accident, you’ll have to wait for it to come back later.

Getting a hold of Sony’s other services is even more frustrating. For example, to try out Music Unlimited–Sony’s answer to Spotify and other subscription music services–you must tap on the app that’s pre-loaded on the device, which takes you to the Android Market, where you download another app, in which you sign up for the service, and then return to the Android Market to update the original app, which finally gives you access after you create a login and agree to some terms of service. And then, the trial service is limited to 30-second samples. The process for getting Sony’s Reader app for e-books is similar, and my attempts to download Sony’s Video Unlimited service through the pre-loaded link only sent me back to the home screen. Whereas content consumption is supposed to be frictionless, Sony has raised nothing but obstacles.

Of course you can ignore Sony’s multimedia offerings, but without them the Tablet S is a lot like any other Android tablet, save for its unique hardware design. And as Sony itself has pointed out, it wants to be more than just a hardware company. “I spent the last five years building a platform so I can compete with Steve Jobs,” Sony CEO Howard Stringer said recently. “It’s finished, and it’s launching now,” If the Tablet S is what Stringer has in mind, I weep for Sony’s future.

Consider that tough talk for a company with grand aspirations. Compared to rival $500 Android tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, Sony’s Tablet S holds its own. But if Sony really wants to make a different kind of product, one that can truly compete as a media platform with Apple and Amazon, it needs to do a lot better.

(MORE: Kindle Fire Reviews Run Hot and Cold)

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