Engadget continues to rake in scoop after scoop on the "PlayStation Phone", which I deliberately place in quotes because it looks like what should be the PSPhone, the next technological marvel from the company that once brought us Walkman, is actually... an Android app.
No, that's not a joke. The PSPhone or PlayStation Phone or Zeus or whatever Sony ends up calling what should be their premiere mobile device runs on top of Google's Android platform. Android 3.0 Gingerbread to be precise.
That's awesome for a whole lot of reasons. It's a huge boost for Google and fantastic news for Android enthusiasts who want great gaming on the platform. (At least for those who are willing to use Sony Ericsson's version of it.) It's great for Apple iPhone lovers because strong competition breeds a better market for everyone. Who knows, maybe someday they'll even make a PlayStation app for iOS too. (I don't think they will but that won't stop me from dreaming about God of War and Grand Turismo on my iPad...)
It might even be great for Sony in the sense that it avoids them having to write a telephony stack and Smartphone OS from scratch, something they've never seriously undertaken on their own (they've previously used Android, Windows Mobile, and Symbian). It probably gets them to market faster, especially considering how slow to market they've been. (The iPhone was released in 2007, the App Store in 2008, and the PSPhone won't hit until 2011. That's positively glacier in modern terms).
It's bad for them in that it means their iconic PlayStation line, for the first time, is dependent on someone else's platform. That Android is open source and Sony could always fork it and take it in-house somewhat diminishes the risk. (Unlike RIM who's mortgaged the soul of their new PlayBook tablet to Adobe for the jumpstart of a Flash/AIR UI and development layer.)
But it's really bad for SONY. For the consumer electronics powerhouse. Like I said, for the company that made the walkman and the PS2.
For that Sony, the SONY of the 80s and 90s, it's surrender. It's the equivalent of releasing the PS3 as a Steam-like Windows program. It's almost humiliating, or would be for that all-cap SONY of a decade ago. While not identical, I can't help but think of SEGA who once made the Genesis and DreamCast and is now just one of a multitude of development houses and -- much as I love Sonic -- not even an industry leading one. (And yes, I owned a SEGA CD, what of it?)
Can you imagine if instead of the iPhone Apple made an iPod app for Windows Mobile? If instead of webOS Palm had simply repackaged their emulator for BlackBerry? With Facebook and Mozilla abdicating mobile OS innovation at the concept stage, Sony was one of the few companies I hoped could be the next Apple, the next Palm. Sure they were content on the PC side to resell Windows but mobile is the next big thing and a chance to start over -- just ask HP.
So instead of a PlayStation Phone we get a phone that runs PlayStation. We get an app. And if you're Sony and one of your highest value brands is reduced to an app on someone else's platform you're doing it wrong.