Pure Speculation: PSPhone

What I cannot understand is why the world seems to want or expect the mythical PlayStation Phone.  We obviously have no real evidence of what a PSPhone would look like or what it’s capabilities would be.  Would it essentially be a touchscreen PSP where once you select the Phone icon from the XMB you get a set of phone buttons on the touchscreen to tap away on.

Could such a device from Sony Ericsson do better the Nokia’s attempt at a gaming handheld/phone hybrid, the N-Gage.  We all know how well that device, with it’s unique side-talking ‘feature’,  turned out; Nokia scrapped it as a hardware platform and it is now just a gaming API in it’s standard range of phones.

Maybe it would essentially be an iPhone clone with PlayStation branding.  The iPhone and it’s App Store have undoubtedly been a success, but such a device would not be a replacement for a PSP, so it would occupy a new place in the PlayStation family, catering to more casual gaming.  Perhaps that would make it a more likely younger sibling for the PlayStations we already know.

You have likely read elsewhere on the Intertubes these last few days that there has been another round of speculation amongst the gaming media about the likelihood of a Sony Ericsson PlayStation phone.  This time it was started when Sony Ericsson’s President, Hideki Komiyama, spoke to the Financial Times.

The bulk of the article concerns the tough time that Sony Ericsson is having in the mobile phone market at the moment; how it’s lost the momentum it gained when it introduced the Walkman and Cybershot phones and it’s X1 smartphone has been something of a failure.  But one short paragraph towards the end of the article is what has got gamers talking:

He expresses interest in Sony Ericsson carving out a niche for itself based on Sony’s strength in gaming. He says a PlayStation mobile, building on the Walkman and Cybershot phones, “could happen”.

That’s it.  All he says it that a PlayStation phone could happen.  Well of course it could, that’s not news is it, but it has been enough to get all the usual suspects trotting out their pictures of PSPhone mock-ups.  So as a story completely devoid of news, I was ignoring it.  But then I read something else today that got me thinking more about it.

On Edge Online I read about a recent interview Sony’s Chairman, Howard Stringer, gave to Nikkei Electronics Asia.  The full interview is very interesting and worth a read, but one sentence Edge highlighted is relevant here.

Next we will be expanding the PlayStation Network to hardware other than the PS3, because the number of PS3 units sold puts a limit on the scale of the network possible.

Now while the PSN is accessible on the PSP already, I think it is fairly safe to discount that as being the “hardware other than the PS3”.  So what else could PSN be expanding onto?

Perhaps the PC, where they might take the fight to Microsoft’s Windows LIVE that compliments the service on Xbox.  But Sony has no stake in the PC.  It has no incumbent operating system to tie people to, so no, I do not think the PC is likely to be PSN’s next destination.

Surely a far more likely target would be mobile phones.  The existing PSN could easily serve as the foundation for an App Store-style destination.  But they would need a route to market to get a Mobile PSN Store established.  Sony have that with Sony Ericsson and Sony Ericsson are looking for ways to build their market share.

In their article, the FT say that “Sony Ericsson is hoping to begin selling at least two new smartphones by the end of this year, and a third early in 2010”.  Perhaps those new smartphones’ unique selling point will be the presence of the PSN on them.  Perhaps we should not be expecting a PS Phone, but a PSN Phone.  A subtle difference, but one that is perhaps more likely.

As the title says, pure speculation on my part.  Let me know what you think in the comments.