This is one of my speculation fueled posts so I’m admitting that a lot of it is based on rumour, hearsay, wild prognostication and adding up 2+2+2+2 to equal 63. With that in mind on with the rest…
Right now I’m inclined to think that Sony is on the cusp of a resurgence to being the most dominant player within the consumer electronics space in the world. This is a contentious point because Sony certainly represent well within every part of the CE market from computers, games consoles, TVs and phones through to DVD players and handhelds – it’s not like they are at risk of disappearing any time soon. However if you look at Sony’s position in these markets they are slowly slipping places, losing ground to Samsung (TVs & DVDs), Apple (Phones, Media Players), Microsoft (Consoles), Nintendo (Handhelds, Consoles) and others.
However they have a huge opportunity and I think they’ve realised it but the rest of the world hasn’t yet.
The advantage Sony has over every other company I mentioned above is they are already present in every single part of the Consumer Electronics market. They also operate in channels the others don’t touch – distribution and content creation.
Whilst Apple might have iTunes, they still have to license the movie from Sony Pictures to distribute it. Whilst Samsung has the beautiful 50 inch LED display with a BlueRay player, they still have to get the Discs from Sony to play on it.
The X10 has been a big hit for Sony this year. A contact of mine from VHA says that the X10 Mini has been selling really well even though it’s a small phone with Android 1.5 – it has introduced a lot of new customers to Android and Sony phones.
Couple to this Sony’s announced release of Crackle – their new content streaming service that will allow you to watch TVs and Movies on your phone and you can start to see their play.
HTC showed in the middle of the year though that the future of the phone was one coupled to big displays. The HTC Evo can shoot high-def video and has a mini HDMI connector so you can throw your phone display onto the big screen – perfect for looking at pics, video or gaming. Coupled with a fast processor and a stunning display of it’s own and you can see why it was one of the fastest selling phones in 2010.
Many of the new top end Android phones are starting to follow suit so expect to see HDMI feature on Sony’s next high-end Xperia and you’ll be able to watch HD movies streamed via Crackle to your home system. With bandwidth detection it would be simple to be passing down 5 or 6.1 sound for your home theatre as well and HDMI will take care of the connections.
Sony have dropped a few hints in public over the last few months about slates running Android and clearly they will be watching the Galaxy S Tab to see if they can outdo them. A mobile device that can play to BlueRay quality would be very cool and would outdo the iPad.
Finally there’s gaming – there have been some persistent rumours flying around that the next Xperia phone will be Sony’s replacement for the PSP. I subscribe to this not because I love my PSP but because it’s unlike Sony not to have shown us anything new for so long.
The PSP Go last year wasn’t a roaring success but it gave Sony experience working out how to distribute games digitally and assess the state of the market. With no hardware upgrade and no new games there wasn’t really a compelling reason to upgrade. PSP is now at the end of it’s life cycle.
The other reason I subscribe to this is that by the time we get to the next iteration of the Xperia it should be possible to drop an emulation chip onto it to play PSP games natively without significantly affecting battery life or hardware size (Sony have a long history of this by putting in hardware emulation for PSOne and PS2 platforms to maintain backwards compatibility on old games).
I’ve seen a few offers over the last couple of months where “free” PSPs have been offered to customers buying an X10. I don’t think this is because sales are poor, it’s an incentive to finish off the stock of PSPs and get people used to PSP games ahead of a move to getting them via your phone.
With the current crop of graphics chips being designed for mobile devices and the speed improvements on CPUs (most new Android phones are running at least a 1GHz Snapdragon core), gaming is becoming a first class citizen on mobile devices and many now far outstrip a humble PSP or Nintendo DS and are even challenging a Wii or XBox in terms of power.
Combined with a couple of wireless controllers (Bluetooth naturally the same as a Wiimote) and you’ve got a gaming platform you can throw on the TV and take with you on the move. Pretty compelling for casual and hardcore gamers alike.
I stated at the outset of this post that there’s a lot of wild speculation in here but it’s mixed with a lot of hope too – this is EXACTLY the way I want my home to run – my phone should be the most useful and flexible device available, being able to syndicate services to other devices to enhance it (display, processing, storage, control etc), it needs to be the hub that everything else hangs off.
I don’t think there are many other businesses that can do this. Samsung could have a go but they haven’t got the gaming heritage nor the content to pull off a total vertical play (though partnerships could be had), Apple clearly don’t have the games or the TV technology to do this (Apple TV is a dead end in my view anyway and is just a pretty Tivo – Sony could render this irrelevant). Nintendo simply don’t have the interest.
If Sony aren’t doing this then I’ll be very disappointed. If they are then I can’t wait until CES 2011 as we have to be right on the cusp of some announcements around this.
My prediction – the Christmas of 2012 will have a lot of Sony boxes as consumers re-envision the way their home entertainment works and finally unify all of these devices using the humble mobile phone as it’s core.