Sony Ericsson. I remember those days when SE used to bombard the market with quality phones that used to compete with Nokia at all price points. As a matter of fact, I would thank SE for bringing convergence to the mainstream mobile phone market. First they brought quality music playback to mobile phones with Walkman lineup and then they brought in quality lens with Cybershot phones. K750i and W800i are two phones that will live forever in history books as the phones that changed the way a mobile phone was used. But then, the last few years were extremely hard for them. Competition from brands like Apple, HTC, Samsung and the financial meltdown had resulted in heavy losses for them from which they were able recover and get back into profits in the year 2010.
Android and Xperia X10:
The move to Android from Symbian for midrange and high end devices paid off well for SE initially. The Xperia X10 Smartphone gave SE the success that they have been looking for so long and pushed them back into profits. But the lack of updates on this phone (UI stuck on 1.6 version of Android) meant that the sales started to slow down and was quickly pushed into oblivion by better Smartphones like HTC Desire, Motorola Droids and Samsung Galaxy S. Though the Xperia lineup received 2.1 update, there were rumors that the lineup will never see Froyo even when the competition moved to Froyo and looking at Gingerbread. I was a bit confused as to why SE has been ignoring these phones and the confusion was cleared at CES 2011 event that happened in Las Vegas.
At CES, SE took everyone by surprise and gave a hint of what was to come.
The strategy of concentrating on the future and making a fresh start seemed to be better than trying to fix the past. Their new phone Xperia Arc is not just beautiful and stunning, it is among the few phones that is going to have Gingerbread (Android 2.3). Do note that majority of the devices announced during CES and later in January were running Froyo. Here is a short SE commercial showcasing SE Xperia Arc:
I am sure that with the h/w and s/w that Arc has, it will be the phone to beat this year.
The announcements made by Sony during the event held in Tokyo on 27th of January gave the world a clear picture of what they are planning. While some of the new features on PSP2 took many by surprise, it is the software related announcements that satisfied many. One area where Android has been lagging behind when compared to platforms like iOS, WP7, Web OS is gaming. Android phones have the computing power to run graphic intensive games but there aren’t enough games that could push Android as a gaming friendly platform and Sony has decided to concentrate in this area, where they are masters and using which they can dominate the field.
PlayStation Suite and PlayStation certified license program:
This is the most interesting announcement made during Tokyo event. In Sony’s words “PlayStation Suite will work with Android based, PlayStation Certified portable devices – including mobile phones, smart-phones, and tablet PCs – to offer “PlayStation quality” content to users worldwide”. There never was a device other than PSP and PS(X) that could play widely popular PlayStation games. PlayStation Suite is a framework that allows one to PlayStation content to Android, thus letting users enjoy PlayStation games on an Android phone, making cross platform gaming possible for the very first time for PlayStation fans. Through “PlayStation Certified” license program , Sony will provide necessary support develop and deliver quality PlayStation experience. If I am right, Sony will be taking a neutral approach, letting other hardware manufacturers design and sell PlayStation certified devices that excel at gaming. Sony will start with providing PlayStation classics for Android and bring out bigger and addictive titles later. Do note that Sony is not just talking about teeny weenie games like angry birds or poker or PvZ that are widely popular on competing platforms. The world will (probably) see intense action games like Uncharted, Killzone, CoD, MGS etc on Android.
PlayStation Game Store for Android:
Along with PlayStation licensing, Sony has announced that they will open a PlayStation Game store for Android. This will be place from where users will be able to download and install PlayStation games on their Android devices. The store is controlled by Sony and the priority is to keep the store clean and of high quality instead of relying on quantity. This certainly is a good move as Sony will have control on the content delivered to the end users. One reason why I like Sony having their own Android game store is the confusing Android market on which no one has control and quality games can be lost in the avalanche of useless games that are added on hourly basis. One concern that I have is that Sony might put few restrictions on Droid gaming devices to protect their upcoming gaming handheld device, the PSP2. Sony had clearly mentioned that they want to pull more users to superior PSP2 by providing them Playstation experience on Android
There were rumors floating on the web that Sony was working on a phone that can play PSP games and is known as PSPhone. This is what the phone is rumored to look like:
The rumors turned to be true and SE is indeed working on a game centric phone, named Xperia Play. You can have a look at Engadget review of PSPhone a.k.a Xperia Play here. This, in my opinion is the phone that the Droid world has been waiting to see, a phone that can do justice to the powerful hardware that is made available for Android. Sony has been one of the strongest in multimedia department and with top notch gaming capabilities, this phone could open up a whole new crop of devices, devices that not only match PMP and camera but match PSP and N:DS.
Halon (Vivaz 2) and other Smartphones:
While the devices like Arc and Play are meant for fat purse enthusiasts, SE has been working on few devices for mainstream buyers for whom budget is as important as other factors. The most notable is the device codenamed Halon. A detailed review of this phone is done by Eldar Murtazin can be found here. A stunning device running Gingerbread, high resolution display, front and rear camera’s probably capable of 720p video, Bravia video engine etc and this is how the phone looks like, courtesy mobile-review.com:
The most interesting part is the price. The phone is rumored to debut under 20k and if this is true, it will redefine the sub-20k Smartphone segment. SE is also working on successors to X10 Mini with bigger screen and better specs to satisfy qwerty maniacs.
Apart from releasing new hardware there are few areas that SE have to concentrate on.
- Learn from their mistakes with X10 lineup and upgrade their phone’s OS regularly.
- Release phones with unlocked ROM/boot loader, allowing modders to develop ROMs
- Take Samsungs approach and help out modders to provide high quality custom ROMs
- Make sure that the phones come with enough power that keeps them on for more than a day.
So, there you go. A lot planned by SE and there is a touch of uniqueness to their approach. Let the droiders get a taste of Playstation and pull them into the PSN and make them go for better Playstation hardware like PSP and PS3. There is nothing to lose and if the approach works, they will walk out with monstrous market share and profits in smartphone, game software and handheld gaming markets. They might even take the no.3 spot in smartphone market share. I hope that it works out well for them and I wish them the very best. SE is one company that can provide unparalleled experience and I might end up buying one of their new devices (probably the Arc) for the first time since 2004. Fingers crossed and waiting.