Sony, not content with merely bumping up the specs of the PSP into the new Go version, is considering transforming the PSP into a phone too. Is this a smart move by the consumer electronics giant, or a very dumb one?
PSP Phone rumors have come and gone in the past, fueled by fantasy and interesting tidbits like the Sony patent pictured above. But the latest one seems to carry a little more weight, and even mentions that Sony will be setting up a project team to develop the product as soon as July. From a distance, it seems to be a pretty sensible idea–Sony’s PSP is, after all, a successful handheld gaming console, and has already gone through several design refreshes. Sony’s also been in partnership with Ericsson for years, turning out a range of phones with a varying degree of success. Combining those two design lines would be a natural progression.
Why would Sony want to do this? Because it’s lagging behind many other, younger competitors in the mobile cellphone gaming field, including Android phones, Nokia and Palm’s smartphones, and Apple’s iPhone. All of these competing devices now have powerful CPUs and GPU options, large touchscreens, and accelerometer-based inputs–both of which the PSP lacks. And, exemplified by the iPhone’s App Store, there are tens of thousands of apps out there for the devices, many of which are games. These games, some coming from big-name publishers and phone makers, are undoubtedly eating into the PSP’s revenues.
Sony’s not helped the situation much. The new PSP Go may be a better design than its predecessors, but it’s arguably what the PSP should’ve been like in the first place, and by pricing it significantly higher than the existing PSPs, Sony’s pushing it towards the smartphone price bracket–a market in which the PSP just cannot compete.
Hence it’s highly plausible that Sony’s really looking at recapturing some of its lost revenues by launching its own gaming-centric smartphone. For it to work, however, Sony must avoid three pitfalls. The first is the horse designed by committee issue–Sony absolutely cannot afford for a hybrid Sony Ericsson/PSP to be a camel. The second is getting the timing right–Sony must be swift. The new iPhone, still more suited for games than its predecessors, is already out and selling by the millions and a new iPod touch, also rumored as more powerful and gamer-friendly, is due in September. And third, price: The PSP Go’s price is wrong, and Sony’s PS3 has partly stuttered since launch due to high unit costs. Pricing a PSP phone at some ridiculous level would be a disaster.