AFR: Sony's 2-screen "Tablet P": a good idea gone wrong

Jeffrey Kesselman jeffpk at
Mon Apr 2 21:36:07 EDT 2012

Interestingly enough... e ink screens CAN fold.  They are just too slow for
general tablet use.

On Mon, Apr 2, 2012 at 9:33 PM, John Gilmore <gnu at> wrote:

> [Summary: 2-screen laptops need fairly deep software support because 2
>  screens don't look like 1 screen.  I excerpted freely below; see
> the link for the entire story. --gnu]
> Sony's tablet a good idea gone wrong
> PUBLISHED: 30 Mar 2012
> The best thing that can be said about Sony's new $729 Tablet P is that
> it means well.
> The central idea that must have led to the construction of the Tablet
> P -- that iPads are too large -- is pretty sound. iPads are too large,
> at least for a lot of users (the staff here at the Digital Life Labs
> included), and at least for a lot of applications.
> So, yes, Sony was trying to solve a genuine problem when it came up
> with the Tablet P, a tablet that folds in half so you can slip it into
> your pocket or purse, that's light enough to read e-books on
> for hours without your hand cramping, and small enough that you can
> use it as a camera without looking like a total tool.
> The trouble was, they couldn't make it happen, not with
> today's technology. To have a tablet fold in two, you either need one
> screen that folds in two, or you need two screens with absolutely no
> bezel, so that one screen blends seamlessly with the other screen when
> they're placed side by side. Neither of those technologies are
> available today, so all Sony's engineers could come up with was two
> screens, each with a modest 4 mm bezel that, when placed next to the
> other bezel, creates a whopping great 9 mm-wide black bar right in the
> middle of the display. (The other millimetre is the gap between the
> displays, which can be quite irritating if there's light behind the
> display, shining through.)
> Now, that wouldn't be completely fatal if the Tablet P were running an
> operating system that knew how to handle two screens with a black bar
> and a sliver of light in the middle of them. But the Tablet P is
> running Android, and neither Android nor most Android apps have a clue
> how to use the dual display.
> Some apps on the Tablet P, chiefly the ones Sony has rewritten
> specifically for the device, work quite well. The email app, for
> instance, uses one screen as a virtual keyboard, and the other screen
> as a display, when you're creating emails. When you're viewing emails,
> one screen is used to list the items in the inbox, and the other
> screen is used to preview the highlighted item.
> But trouble arises when you use apps other than the ones written to
> cope with the black bar. Most apps will just curl up into a ball and
> display only on one of the two screens. Neither of those screens is
> very large, so you end up with apps displaying little bigger than they
> would on a mobile phone. Worse yet, they're both very long and narrow,
> far more so than many apps seem able to cope with, and as a result
> many apps won't even fully utilise the one small screen they're
> on. Amazon's Kindle app, for instance, an app so well written that it
> can usually cope with any screen you throw at it, uses only 83 per
> cent of one screen, and zero per cent of the other. Almost 60 per cent
> of the Tablet P's display is left blank.
> It's such a pity, because a tablet that folds in two is such a good
> idea.  Perhaps the best thing that can be said about the Tablet P is
> not that it means well, but that it's simply ahead of its time.
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