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CIO - Facing sputtering sales of its Sony PSP gaming device and bracing for Apple's game-changing iPad, Sony plans to follow in Apple's footsteps in hopes of a turnaround.
Sony plans to deliver a smartphone that plays PlayStation games and a device to compete with the iPad this year, sources told the Wall Street Journal. The devices will reportedly tap into Sony's upcoming online media platform, which launches later this month. Currently called Sony Online Service, the media platform is similar to Apple's iTunes.
Does Sony's comeback bid smack of desperation? "They should have done this years ago, now it's kind of like closing the barn door after the cows have escaped," says analyst Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group. "Apple took the market by trying to do other things, and that's likely the way to take it back ... Sony still seems to be trying to figure out what Apple did so they can copy it."
Sony hopes to leverage its strength in portable gaming by letting more devices tap into its popular gaming catalog. The new device, for instance, will blend features of a netbook, e-reader and Sony PSP, the Wall Street Journal reports.
All of this comes amidst troubling times for Sony. Shipments of Sony Ericson phones took a dive last year, and Sony recently reduced its forecast for Sony PSP shipments. Sony's latest PSP Go device has been criticized for its weighty price tag: $250.
Meanwhile, game developers see the potential for the upcoming Apple iPad as a powerful portable gaming platform. "The number of developers working on that platform-a large number on entertainment titles-is both impressively large and growing," Enderle says.
Ironically, John Koller, director of hardware marketing at Sony Computer Entertainment, told CIO.com that the iPhone has helped boost sales of the Sony PSP. "We don't view the iPhone negatively in our sector," he said. "There's been more positive impact, in terms of attention turned to the handheld sector and the ability for consumers to graduate to PSP after playing iPhone games."
Will consumers give Sony's new products a chance? Despite Sony's copycat approach to the mobile market, Enderle doesn't count out Sony's chances. He thinks Sony's best shot is to come out with a low price for its new devices and service.
"We aren't at the right price yet for this [mobile] market to explode," Enderle says. "The problem is the cost of the data plans, and it may take a few years before that gets fixed. Once these costs come down sharply, expect the market to explode-and explosions do create opportunities."
Read more about mobile/wireless in CIO's Mobile/Wireless Drilldown.