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

Walter Bender walter.bender at
Mon Apr 2 22:04:24 EDT 2012

On Mon, Apr 2, 2012 at 9:36 PM, Jeffrey Kesselman <jeffpk at> wrote:
> Interestingly enough... e ink screens CAN fold.  They are just too slow for
> general tablet use.

Nintendo DS has a pretty decent two-screen solution, but it runs an OS
and apps designed for two screens -- touché.

> 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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Walter Bender
Sugar Labs

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