According to rumors posted by the Wall Street Journal, Sony is preparing a new lineup of devices aimed squarely at Apple--specifically, a smartphone and a tablet. But given Sony's recent history, they may not have the skill to pull off either.
The rumors here are that Sony is working on two products for a new line: one smartphone and one tablet/netbook-type device, with (as is Sony's wont) possibly multiple versions available of each. The smartphone is implied to focus on videogames, like Sony's PSP, and the tablet is said to combine elements of ebook readers, game players, and netbooks, and is specifically looking to compete with the iPad. These two products will integrate with Sony's upcoming iTunes competitor, Sony Online Service. But does Sony have the ability to pull this off?
Ah, the plight of the fallen champion. In the '90s and early 00's, Sony was the best of the best, turning out innovative and incredibly successful products. Sony was a brand of inimitable quality. Now, they rule over a massive, confusing lineup of devices, their media strategy is often baffling, and they've lost two key categories which they once dominated (portable media, to Apple, and gaming, to both Nintendo and Microsoft). Gizmodo put together an infographic that shows exactly why they're failing: a complete dearth of editing.
But Sony is also one of just a few companies that has the breadth to compete in the mobile market. Mobile's are no longer any place for a niche company--they've got to blend hardware, software, media, gaming, connectivity, utility, and developer relations all at once, to even stand a chance. Apple, Microsoft, and Google have begun to dominate the market, because they're the only ones that can--other than Sony. Sony's got a movie studio, a record studio, a history of impressive hardware in all the areas that count, is an asserted player (if no longer champion) in the gaming market, and above all else, has the resources to devote to a do-everything device that can actually compete. Their weak point might be software--Sony's never made a full-fledged OS--but there are options out there, most notably Android (Sony's upcoming Xperia X10, which looks amazing, runs a modified version of Android).
So the rumors that Sony is working on what seems to be a two-item lineup is both encouraging and exciting, but also worrying. Sony definitely has the potential to enter the mobile market and compete with Apple, Google, and Microsoft, but the company's recent history doesn't inspire confidence. Still, they'll have to give it a try if they want any mobile presence--here's hoping the results are more Walkman than Minidisc.
[Via Wall Street Journal]