Sony Tablet S Is a Long-Awaited Win

NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- It's a good bet Harvard Business School is not going to be using Sony (SNY) as a case study -- at least not a positive one. All you can do is gawk at the missteps of the once-hallowed electronics giant: the ridiculously disorganized PlayStation 3 rollout, how it lost its once insurmountable position in the flat-panel TV market, its go-nowhere PC strategy, it's go-nowhere portable device wars, its synergy-free Hollywood movie strategy ... you can't make it up.

But even still, a business ignores Sony at its peril. To wit, Sony's latest attempt in the tablet PC market: the Sony Tablet S ($499). It rolls out Sept. 15, and I sat down for a thorough demo with a company representative Thursday.
Easy to hold, easy to look at and a welcome choice for business types, the S shows Sony can do something right (if not perfectly).

The takeaway? The S is an intriguing option for companies trying to use a tablet get something done.

What you get
The unit is a unique approach to the tablet, with some nice business features kicked in.

Right up front, the S is no Apple ( AAPL) iPad. This Google ( GOOG) Android-based tablet does not have the same ultrathin design, the same fit or finish -- nor the same pain-in-the-you-know-what proprietary features. The idea with the S is to create a tablet that feels like you are carrying a magazine or thin book. There is a thicker "binding" side and a thinner "page" side. The result is a reasonably light, 1.5-pound, wedge-shaped, touch-controlled tablet about 1 inch thick on one side and a quarter-inch or so thick on the other. The thicker binding side fits comfortably in your hand so you can carry it easily as you work. And the wedge shape -- rather brilliantly, I might add -- greatly reduces glare: Park it on your desk and the design keeps the device angled just enough away from overhead lights. It's a nice, nice touch.

Plus, the unit comes with a full-size SD slot so memory can be expanded easily, and I liked the mini USB connection for peripherals. I also found the display to be a rare plus in a tablet -- blacks were black, and overall motion quality was crisp.

I could see myself spending many hours working and chilling on the S.

What you don't get
The Tablet S is neither as tough as you might want nor a completely business-focused solution

This thing is a nice step, but it is clearly a first step. The overall enclosure was made from what felt like midgrade plastic -- kind of chintzy, to be honest. Plan on getting a protective case for this unit. Controls for volume and power were hard to use and find. And there is a real problem -- the unit has a proprietary power connector, which is inexcusable in a modern tablet. It means you have to drag around yet one more stupid connector to make this thing work.

And keep in mind, this unit is consumer-based. All your business software will need to be downloaded and installed via the Android Market. If you need a proprietary mobile app, this tablet is not for you.

Bottom line
I have to say, the Tablet S is not bad. It's a fresh approach to the on-the-go tablet computer. It is easy to hold, easy to look at and a welcome choice for business types seeking a mobile work solution. Just keep in mind that this is a consumer tool first and there are quirks.

But overall, Sony might just have a winner on its hands with the Tablet S. All I can say is: It's about time.

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This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.

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