How Google Can Save... Sony? Yes, Sony.

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Though it may now be hard to remember, there was a time that Sony was the company that led the tech world. Sony, after all, were the people who helped bring us the Walkman and the CD player. For years, the Sony brand was synonymous with cutting edge technology and sophisticated design.

But while Sony are still a powerhouse in the world of tech, it’s now common knowledge they are no longer its leaders. We all know why: their commitment to closed, proprietary technology hurt them immensely in the internet age and now, other more web-savvy companies dominate ourĀ  new media world. Apple are now the go-to innovators in design and functionality; Nintendo and Microsoft have leapfrogged Sony this gaming generation; and Samsung, Panasonic and others make consumer tech that is just as good, if not better, than Sony’s.

It’s true that Sony have improved lately. Having

Before the rise of the web, consumer tech evolved by getting more and more sophisticated for the end-user. CDs were better than tapes, DVDs were better than VHSs and so on. But today the bulk of innovation is about making smart software so that hardware does more things more smoothly. This is why Apple is so dominant now; as a company that was always half software and half hardware, they were perfectly poised to handle the transition to the web era.

But Sony have notoriously struggled with software. Even now, their iTunes equivalent – Media Go – is clunky and inefficient. The PSN video store is limited to the PS3 and PSP. And Sony Ericsson have failed to create something truly compelling – with Android 2.2. out, even the once-impressive Xperia X10 feels stale now. While Sony CEO Howard Stringer is committed to change, it seems to be happening far too slowly.

So Sony has two options. Spend years and billions becoming a software-centric company, or team up with an established web player. Given Sony’s precarious financial situation, it’s the latter that makes more sense.

And with a partnership already established in InternetTV, it’s Google who are Sony’s best bet. The search giant is committed to openness, has some of the best programmers around, and are a way for Sony to jump ahead of their competition rather than, as they have for years now, simply play catch up. And let’s face it: some co-operation between Sony and Google could have some pretty incredible results.

So what might the partnership produce?

 

Sony + Google = iPad Killer?

With 2 million iPads sold in just 2 months, it seems pretty clear that Jobs was right: the touch-screen tablet is a new product category. So far, however, it seems that more than anything the iPad has actually killed tablet innovation rather than spurred it on.

The problem for all other manufacturers is that it’s so hard to match Apple on both hardware and software. But hope comes in the form of a rumor: what if Sony teamed up with Google to make a tablet?

The thing is, every glimpse we’ve had of an Android tablet so far has seemed okay, but not perfect. Similarly, while Sony still make killer hardware, their user interfaces are often lackluster. But who else but Sony could create a tablet device that would be even thinner and lighter than the iPad? And who else but Google has the know-how to implement a small, light, open and extensible OS for said tablet.

With a modified version of either Android or the forthcoming Chrome OS, the Sony-Google tablet could be slickly designed, have access to an app store, have great battery life and be more open than the iPad. Can you imagine a Sony a tablet with wide, open video format support? Or support for both Flash and HTML5? It’d be pretty killer, right?

By combining the bestĀ  of Sony’s hardware expertise and Google’s software magic, we may not have to wait years for a viable iPad competitor, but could instead see one arrive in 2011.

 

A Radical Change for the PSP2?

But it isn’t just tablets that may benefit from this hypothetical partnership. Sony’s gaming division might too.

After all, now that Sony are just giving games away for free, you can tell they are getting pretty desperate about the PSP. But my theory is that they’re trying to extend the life of the PSP because the PSP2 just isn’t ready yet. Why? Well, Sony must know that in order for the PSP2 to be compelling, it has to match the iPhone. Yes, the games will be a priority – but it will also have to have apps, a touchscreen, excellent media capabilities and web browsing. Otherwise, why buy it? This is obviously taking a long time.

But the best way Sony can ensure the creation of a truly compelling device is to work with the folks at Mountain View to create a customized Android-based solution. Sure, Sony has very legitimate security concerns; it has hit the PSP hard. But if they worked with Google to address those specifically, and at the same time allowed themselves access to Android Market, they’d have a viable competitor to the iPhone’s media functionality and array of apps.

Of course, using Android would also mean that Sony could release two versions of the PSP2 – one with a phone and one without – making it much more competitive than the current PSP, which is struggling to stay relevant. By basing the PSP2 on a custom version of Android, Sony could have the must-have all-in-one device the original PSP was supposed to be.

 

What Else Would a Sony-Google Partnership Bring?

Just to be clear, I’m not talking about a merger or anything so far out there. But in the face of so much competition and Sony’s software department seemingly unable to keep up, having these two companies team up on certain projects would be a boon for both. Sony would get Google’s know-how with software and Google would get their operating systems onto some of the best hardware out there.

And it’s not just these tablets or portable gaming that would benefit. Sony’s Reader line would be a perfect match for the forthcoming bookstore, Google Editions. All of Sony’s products could benefit from the cloud-based services of Google Apps.

Sure, maybe it’s a pie-in-the-sky idea. But when you take a step back and look at Sony’s position – maybe not. What do you think, Techi readers? What good might come of out a Google-Sony partnership?

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/08_45/b4107048234222_page_2.htm
Written by Navneet Alang

Navneet Alang is a technology-culture writer based in Toronto. You can find him on Twitter at @navalang
SEE MORE ARTICLES BY "Navneet Alang"

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4 Comments »

 
#1
Cliff
June 3rd, 2010 at 3:18 pm

A PSP phone would be pretty cool…especially if it ran Android. But had the ability to play great games without worrying about buttons or graphics…

 
 
#2
Bob
June 8th, 2010 at 11:04 pm

Honestly, I think Sony is doing fine. For their PS3 they are pumping out quite a few triple A titles. They are starting to get a profit from the PS3 and I have no doubt this trend will continue.

Their PSP line needs some work. I am not saying it is not an enjoyable product, because I use my PSP often, it is actually right next to me, as I type. It just needs some work.

The statement that the PSP2 needs ” apps, a touchscreen, excellent media capabilities and web browsing. Otherwise, why buy it?” is a ridiculous statement.

The PSP is a gaming console, as its main function. Its main function is not supposed to be a web browsing, media player that you go into Starbucks to search the web and listen to some music, while eating a scone with a cup of Jo. The PSP’s purpose is to be a portable gaming console first. It is in no way even in the same category as the iPad or iPhone. Yes, I know both having gaming capabilities. It is in the category of portable gaming consoles, with the Nintendo DS.

Also take note that the Nintendo DS does not have any of your amazing features and is doing very well.

Therefore since it is first-most and foremost a gaming console the PSP2 will not need, apps, a touchscreen, and excellent media capabilities to succeed.
These would be nice features, but the PSP already offers web browsing and a giant gaming library that you can access via internet and a credit/debit card or go to the store.
Because the PSP is a gaming console and Sony has a very strong grip on making gaming products it is inevitable that it will succeed without these features or a partnership with a top notch company. These features would just push the PSP2 to be more successful, not successful, but more successful.

 
 
#3
Thomas
June 8th, 2010 at 11:08 pm

A Sony/Google partnership would be amazing, no one would be able to touch those 2. A Tablet that kicks iPad’s ass, PSP2, who knows, maybe even Chrome OS on the PS3. That would be a dream come true.

 
 
#4
WALLY
October 27th, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Google has partnered with Sony already so saying it would be awesome is incorrect… it is awesome. it shows up in google tv. the only one so far is a Sony. they have already started prototype psp/phones running android. Thomas, chrome os is just about garbage right now and would be a bad fit for the ps3. a Google tv focused os would be the best because of the fact that chrome os focuses almost exclusively on the internet and its benefits. this is all well and good but a ps3 needs something less focused on internet documents and web browsing… ps3 already does that… it needs a beefier localy baced os. this is not too far away.
Sony is making right moves now but they are also limmiting themselves. they made linux almost imposable to run on the ps3. saying no to open source? really bad idea. just look at apple in a few years when everyone figures out that they are overpaying for products that are “easy to use”. if you cant run windows without getting viruses and having it crash every 7 seconds u are the typical “ifan”. your stupid ass will buy anything with an i infront of it.sorry about the rant of apple hate. the products are quality but it is the people i hate…. and closed source.
back to Sony. Sony will soon impeed Googles explosive groth and a newer and more open company will be used more and more by google. if there isnt a conpany that google can use they will just make one. i want to be holding google stock when or if that happens
so the truth for now is that Googles partnership with Sony is still in its infancy but will grow withing the next year. expect to see an ericson or something that looks like a psp. expect your ps3 to gain a shitload more apps and maybe even a new system that is compatible with google tv. expect to see psp games on the android market. maybe the psp2 but that will be the ipod touch of sony devices. meaning it will be good to play games on and have cool software but will lack the abilities of a phone. and for the same price(plus data charges(OVERPRICED)) why not get the phone? soexpect good out of sony for about a year or two then in about a year expect to see a new face in this gaming/computing/telecommunications industry.

should i start a blog?

-WOH

 

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