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Is Sony's 'Digital Paper' Tablet Just an Expensive Paperweight?

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Sony (SNE - Get Report) last week unveiled a new office gadget for the U.S. market called "Digital Paper," a 13.3-inch grayscale tablet designed solely for displaying and editing PDF files.

In a blog post on Sony's Web site, the company wrote that Digital Paper is targeted at "a range of user communities including legal, higher education, governmental agencies and corporate board rooms across the United States."

According to Bob Neil, Sony's director of Digital Paper, the device "is a true replacement for the vast amounts of paper that continue to clutter many offices."

Digital Paper is wireless, with a 13.3 inch E-ink screen, capable of displaying PDFs in black and white. The screen can also be used for digital note-taking, and Microsoft (MSFT) Word, Excel and PowerPoint files, if they're converted to PDFs. The standard Digital Paper comes with 4 gigabytes of memory and a three-week battery. The whole device is the thickness of only about 30 sheets of paper.

Digital Paper in use - courtesy: sony

Although the idea of a thin digital notepad is interesting in theory, don't expect to see Digital Paper popping up in a workplace near you. The Digital Paper carries an absurd price tag of $1,100.

The concept of a digital notepad may be appealing, but compared to other offerings, such as Apple's (AAPL) iPad, Digital Paper appears overpriced and dated. At $499, Apple's base iPad Air model is more than $600 cheaper than Digital Paper, and comes with 16 gigabytes of storage, four times the Digital Paper's 4 gigabytes. The Air is a bit heavier, and has a screen that is four inches smaller, but with its color display, the air is also capable of much more than the Digital Paper.

Apple's iOS app store has more than 500,000 apps designed specifically for the iPad, including Microsoft's Office suite of apps. The iPad also has a whole host of competitors, including Amazon's (AMZN) Kindle Fire series, and Google's (GOOG) Nexus 7 tablets, which are offered at lower price points and offer comparable features.

A Vicious Response

On Twitter (TWTR) and in the media, the Digital Paper has received quite a bashing.

Twitter user Scott Hanselman (@Shanselman), who has more than 97,000 followers, tweeted "Shouldn't someone tell Sony about iPads?" @Julik also chimed in, tweeting that "Sony [is] selling devices from 1970 on websites from 1999 in 2014."

Still, some observers tweeted with excitement. It's a first-generation use of flexible E-ink technology, which, once the price comes down, should be very good for portable reading devices.

The device itself doesn't bend. The flexible E-ink displays are lighter and more rugged than their glass counterparts, which is why Sony chose to use one in the Digital Paper. The Digital Paper is far from the first large tablet, but it is one of the lightest large-format tablets I've seen.

Maybe Digital Paper will take off and Sony will have a hit. Or maybe it will prove to be nothing more than an expensive paperweight.

Digital Paper ships to customers (if there are any) this May.

At the time of publication, the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

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