updated 06:05 am EST, Mon February 13, 2012
PS Vita OS offers Sony an additional mobile option
Sony is mulling the possibility of extending is PS Vita operating system to other devices, according to AV Watch. Incoming CEO Kaz Hirai reportedly mentioned the idea to reporters during a Japanese Q&A session suggesting that, in addition to Android, the PS Vita OS offered additional scope for the company beyond gaming. The view was also given further credence by Sony Computer Entertainment Senior VP Yoshio Matsumoto, who suggested that as the OS was designed to run on the ARM architecture, that porting it to tablets and smartphones was possible.
'...if you're asking if we've made it in a way that's expandable, so that it's possible to apply to smartphones and tablets on top of achieving the high responsiveness we need for gaming devices -- it is possible,' said Matsumoto. However, qualified this by adding 'that doesn't mean that we're applying it to smartphones and tablets at this point in time, but it's been designed with expandability in mind.'
Sony recently made the decision to acquire Ericsson's stake in what had been a ten-year old partnership on the grounds that it wanted to take complete control over the design and development of its smartphone franchise. It also wanted to be able to better integrate its smartphones with its other hardware and online entertainment services. Currently, it has staked its smartphone OS future on the well-developed Android platform and its thriving ecosystem. At the same time, while some prototype SE phones have surfaced running Windows Phone, the company has not shown any interest in developing hardware running Redmond's OS.
As many manufacturers have discovered with Android, they can easily tweak the OS to meet their needs to help differentiate their devices without having to build a custom platform. However, as Sony has admitted, it fell into the trap of delving too deep into the OS with its changes, which ultimately left it unable to bring timely updates to is smartphones over 2009 and 2010. This turned a number of users off Sony Ericsson's smartphones as it watched Android sales go largely to Samsung and HTC, with Motorola also getting a significant piece of the action.
2011 was a different story, with Sony Ericsson offering a much more competitive line-up of smartphones headed by the Xperia arc running what was the then the latest Android OS, Android 2.3 (Gingerbread). It also opted to lightly skin the OS, and incorporate signature features as widgets, rather than build them into the OS. This has resulted in the company recently recording a 65 percent year-over-year boost in smartphone sales for the last quarter. Sony has also announced that the 2011 smartphone lineup will also receive updates to Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) starting March. Further, it has also built Android apps that tap into its Sony Online Entertainment Network. This included offering phones with the ability to play classic PlayStation games, while also allowing all Android regardless of device to tap directly into its music and movie portfolios through the new apps.
Kaz Hirai has said that he will pursue a strategy that focuses much more on integrating its hardware through software along with greater cohesion across its product portfolio. Porting the PlayStation Vita OS across to other devices could help Sony gain complete control over the OS experience, in a much more Apple-like way. A great deal of Apple's success in selling iPhones and iPads has been the tremendous underlining strength of its iOS operating system and the tight integration between these and iTunes. While Sony is unlikely to abandon Android all-together, it may experiment with one or two devices running the Vita OS. Such a platform could offer unique smartphone or tablet gaming experience that builds on the success that Apple has had in the handheld, casual gaming market, but appeal to gamers looking for an in-depth mobile gaming experience that it could also tightly integrate with its popular PS3 hardware as it has with the PS Vita.