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Roundup: Sony at IFA 2012

Sony President and CEO Kazuo Hirai headlined Sony’s IFA press conference in Berlin, where the electronics giant announced new flagship phones, tablets, and television. The most interesting announcement was a trio of new Xperia smartphones, led by the Xperia T—a high end phone Sony will make available across the globe. The Xperia T sports a 4.6 inch Reality display powered by Sony’s mobile Bravia engine. It’s a classy screen, and should be more than competitive with the Galaxy Note II’s Super AMOLED panel or the iPhone’s Retina Display. The Xperia T also has a 13.1 megapixel “fast capture” camera and a built in NFC chip. Sony announced NFC enabled accessories,  including a pair of headphones, that it will sell alongside the new phone. The T runs a custom version of Android 4.04, Jelly Bean won’t be available at launch, but Sony has promised rapid updates.  Sony also took the time to show off the Xperia V and J, lower end end phones that will be most competitive in emerging and prepaid markets dominated by Chinese manufacturers, such as ZTE and Huawei.

Sony also announced a new Android tablet running Ice Cream Sandwich, the Xperia Tablet S. Sony’s old Android tablets, the Tablet P and S, didn’t sell (or review) very well, so it’s no surprise Sony would want to abandon its older branding and try again with something a little different. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Sony has learned much from their past mistakes. The Xperia Tablet S and Tablet P tried so hard to be original they were unusable. The Tablet P’s dual displays were useless, and the Xperia S had a strange fold on the back that made it impossible to hold comfortably. Sony learned it’s lesson, but it looks like they’ve too far in the opposite direction. As The Verge pointed out, the most inspired thing about the new tablet is its terrible name; all Sony’s designers really did was knock off Microsoft’s upcoming Surface tablets; the Xperia tablet even has a bundled Android app that looks like Metro program. The sole feature Sony didn’t steal from Microsoft? The Xperia Tablet S is splash proof.

Things look a little better on the Windows front. The Vaio Duo 11 is a good looking convertible that will launch alongside Windows 8. The touch screen notebook sports a full sized articulating keyboard that slides behind the display when it’s not needed. The Vaio line of laptops have traditionally been home to some of the more premium, well built Windows notebooks, and the Duo 11 looks to be holding true to Sony’s past. Sony also trotted out the Vaio Duo 20, a twenty inch touch screen desktop that can lay flat. It’s not quite as useful as the Duo 11, but if you’ve always dreamed of a owning a touch screen table, this would be one way to mimic the experience without shelling out for the real thing.

The XBR-84X900 was also on display, and no; it’s not a robot—but it’s still pretty damn cool. The XBR-84X900 (his friend’s just call him Ted), is an 84-inch 4K Bravia television. It’s one of the first production 4K televisions, and should go on sale later this year. No word yet on how much this thing is going to cost, Sony plans to announce pricing next week, but I’m willing to bet it’s out of your price range. That’s okay though, 4K content is far and few between, and there still isn’t a final format for the resolution. You’d be better off saving your money for something more useful, like Sony’s Play Memories camera apps for your Sony NEX-5R! (So, Hirai, can I have my three dollars now?) Play Memories camera apps are apps for your camera. Sort of. See, Sony didn’t announce an SDK for their cameras, just apps. They’re going to have an app store, but it looks like it’s going to be filled with programs Sony builds themselves.  The Play Memories announcement (really more of a demo, we’ve seen this stuff before) is probably just a way for Sony to prep us for the inevitable: Sony selling software for Sony cameras through a Sony app store to give you features they should have given you to begin with.

In other words, it’s DLC.

For a camera.

The Xperia T and Duo 11 may look amazing, but I still think Sony’s lost it.