Can Sony bring the desktop PC market back to life with a computer that doubles as a 20-inch family tablet?
In a product launch that could be seen as a direct response to the recent assertion of senior VP Eric Cador that PC manufacturers have forgotten how to innovate, Sony is set to launch the first ‘tabletop' PC.
An industry first, the VAIO Tap 20 is a desktop computer that doubles as a 20-inch, multi-user tablet that all the family can use together.
Not so long ago, Sony was the envy of all other PC makers. Its VAIO range of notebooks pushed the boundaries of design and quality and quite often ‘out-appled' Apple in terms of elegance and ease of use. They set the standard for mobile computing for others to follow, and the VAIO Tap 20 could well prove to be a return to form.
At 5.2kg and 504 x 312 x 45 mm, it's not going to slip easily into a bag for use on the daily commute, but it is light enough to carry from the kitchen to the living room to the children's bedroom or to perch on your lap, and big enough that four people can gather round it and use it together. With a built-in stand in desktop mode and a wireless mouse and keyboard included, Sony refers to it as a tabletop PC as it believes that families will get the best use from it by placing it on the coffee table and using it in conjunction with the TV or other devices. For this reason it supports NFC (near field communication) to make connectivity simple but it doesn't feature a HDMI slot, a decision which early reviewers have questioned.
Also it's neither as fast nor as powerful as a true desktop computer, but that's to be expected in a portable device and a better comparison would be with a notebook computer. A battery and slim form factor cannot support the heat or processing speed that a desktop delivers. To save weight, the Tap 20 doesn't have an optical drive (though it does have USB ports) but it does boast a 750GB hard drive, more than enough for plenty of rich content.
The VAIO Tap 20 goes on sale in select countries from the end of October and is expected to retail for $999.