One reason Apple's iPad continues to dominate the tablet market after 17 months may be that all the main competitors look like imitations but don't deliver as good an experience. They are typically flat slabs, like the iPad, priced about the same or more, but with many fewer apps, shorter battery life, usually greater weight and thickness and a weaker ecosystem for music, video, books and magazines. Whatever advantages they have--like added ports or the ability to play Flash video--haven't been enough to sway consumers or developers.
Now, Sony, whose brand and reputation for design have long resonated with consumers, is trying something different. On Friday, it is launching a handsome tablet with an unusual, asymmetrical design and some software tweaks and content services it hopes can set it apart from the pack.