Posts Tagged ‘Playstation’

Why and how Sony should double down on its Mobile Handset division

March 14, 2015

Sony executives recently quashed rumors that they planned on selling their struggling mobile handset division[i], which makes the Xperia phone among others. This announcement reduced some of my angst brought on by Sony’s success in squandering opportunities to be a dominant media/technology conglomerate: ditching mobile would have been the equivalent of Russia selling Alaska to the USA, only for vast quantities of oil to be found in Alaska about 100 years later. The Economist recently reported that the number of people using smartphones is estimated to double from 2Bn to 4bn by the end of the decade[ii]; which means that there is a lot of money to be made. Now the question is, how—especially for Sony?

The current state of the phone landscape is similar to personal computers 10 years ago when the ubiquity of Windows meant that computer manufacturers were selling items that provided the exact same experience after turning on the device. Now, as smartphone technology matures and features become standardized, smartphones are becoming commodities; meaning that a user can replace one brand with another without losing or gaining much of significance. Various attendees of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) earlier this year lamented this fact[iii] and the big manufacturers during last week’s Mobile World Congress confirmed this trend. Their “new” products increased screen resolution, processing speed and battery life compared to last year’s products. Even then, these improvements are mostly unnoticeable in daily use. And while this commoditization phenomenon is especially prominent in the Android world, Apple is not immune. Fingerprint scanners and NFC payment services are available on both sides; but Apple has mastered the art of making you pay a lot more for those same features. You know things are bad when the big news is the mere fact that iPhones are now bigger, and people are excited that Samsung Galaxy phones now have curved edges that add minimal functionality but significantly hinder the user experience[iv].

The standardization of features turns this scene into a drab specs-race in which unknown manufacturers like Saygus are bringing powerhouses like the V2 phone, which contains higher spec’d versions of these same features, at prices lower than the big manufacturers can or should charge. So what are the big manufacturers to do?

Well that depends on the manufacturer’s strengths and weaknesses[v]; and just like Bryan Mills, Sony has a unique set of strengths that is has cultivated over a long career[vi]. Through its Playstation platform, Sony understands gaming and gamers like no other (or at least it ought to). Furthermore, the fact that more and more people are using their phones for gaming purposes makes Sony’s insight into gaming invaluable. If I were a Sony Mobile executive, my vision for the mobile division would be that “Anybody interested in experiencing a phenomenal gaming or game-like experience on a mobile device should be getting a Sony mobile device.” Just as Japanese cars are known for reliability and Mazda within that category is the sporty car; Sony’s phones should be “The phone on which to experience gaming”, and if this strategy means cannibalizing its own PlayStation in the long run, better that Sony does this to itself than having Apple take their lunch, again.

And if Sony is having trouble seeing this, they can call me to run their Smartphone division for them.

Endnotes

[i] http://www.xperiablog.net/2015/03/03/sony-refutes-suggestions-that-mobile-is-up-for-sale/

[ii] Planet of the Phones; The Economist Feb28th-March 6th issue.

[iii] http://www.forbes.com/sites/ewanspence/2015/01/08/smartphones-are-boring-a-secret-lesson-in-commoditization-from-ces/

[iv] I don’t say this out of ignorance, I currently use a Samsung Note Edge, LG Nexus 5, Moto Maxx [not the Droid Maxx], and a Lumia 520 and recently sold my Xperia Ultra Z. My iPad mini is an iPhone 6 plus that can’t make phone calls, and I am yet to be convinced by Apple of a need to switch. I bought an HTC one (M8) last year and sent it back because apart from the nice metallic finish, it was not only boring but also inferior to my then Note 3, which I later upgraded to my current Note Edge, much to my disappointment. I am eagerly awaiting the Saygus V2, which I expect to be a boring phone with all the highest specs.

[v] Samsung should focus on the Note for the business segment; Motorola should go back to Google to showcase Google’s idea for Android (or it should work with me on the BeastPhone project).

[vi] In the heyday of Steve Jobs Apple-Disney alliance, I wrote that the only company with the resources to challenge that power couple was Sony, which is both a content and product company.

The Sony Playstation Phone

November 25, 2010

For those not in the know, there are rumours of a Sony Playstation Phone (PP). Why should anybody who doesn’t already give damn give a damn? Because Sony is one of the few companies that can compete successfully against Apple/Disney, and the Playstation-Phone vs. iPhone could be a proxy war.*

Sony hasn’t been doing well in general and I will therefore dispense some advice to them that I hope they are already following. If not, pay heed (then pay me).

1-Make a Playstation-phone, not a playstation-Phone.

Engagdet/Mashable mentioned that Sony-Ericsson will be building the PP, and they may have to market it through normal phone distribution channels e.g carriers and discounts etc. This is fine provided everyone involved remembers that this is a “Playstation-first-phone-second” that they are making and they plan accordingly. Thinking otherwise expresses a flaw that could be costly.

Why?

What makes this phone unique from every other phone getting its ass kicked by the iPhone is that it is also a Playstation. Non-playstation players, who will be turned off by the playstation controls at first, will not be PP’s core/target market. Sony will therefore have to appeal to Playstation (PS) and Playstation Portable (PSP) users to gain initial traction and address muggles as secondary and tertiary markets.

Think of it this way. I have two younger brothers who surf the internet on their PS3, and one of them owns a PSP. My dad is slowly getting over typing one-finger-at-a-time and although my mom is technologically savvy, they couldn’t figure out how to watch a dvd on the PS3 when my brothers were away. I did a small survey to see who would be interested and why. Guess their responses.

Core/Primary market [would get PP as their next phone]-my brothers (they already use two products in the same product Family)

Secondary market [maybe, down the line]-me/my mom.

Tertiary market [Anything with the name Playstation is a waste of time]-my dad

In order to cater to the core market, Sony needs to build a PP that is at least a decent playstation if it does not improve on the experience that a current PSP gives. If Sony waters down its playstation abilities for the sake of appealing to a broader audience, it will fall flat on its face: neither my parents nor I would buy it at first because the Playstation isn’t a drawing factor; and the PS fans may not see a reason to dilute their experience.

Advice: Focus on the Playstation experience, treat the PP as a playstation, market it as one that presents an improvement on their PSP experience, an upgrade if you will, and focus on getting it into the hands of PS and PSP users.

2-Ditch Sony-Ericsson

Some time ago, Sony decided that its core competency was not making phones. It partnered with phone maker Ericsson to make Sony-Ericsson that would make phones on its behalf. Part of the reason why the PP is still a rumour is that Sony is not legally allowed to make a [competing] phone-like product (as part of the rules of forming Sony-Ericsson).

But now for the reality:

  1. Part of the reason why Sony should enter the mobile space is to show itself as forward thinking player, not a dead giant.*
  2. This Playstation phone is a Playstation first and phone second; and it should be marketed primarily at Playstation users who are in Sony’s realm of expertise, not Sony-Ericsson’s. Furthermore, I posit that Playstation has more users/fans than Sony-Ericsson, and Playstation’s users are more loyal.
  3. The Playstation brand is one of the few things Sony got right and it’s not going to lightly bestow that brand on anything else; hence why in 2009 Sony refused to let Sony-Ericsson run with the Playstation brand.
  4. Sony-Ericsson makes shitty phones, based on my biased sample size of 2 shitty Sony-Ericsson phones. Some may take issue with my very low sample size, but consumers don’t make scientific buying decisions based on n=300,000. I will buy one, and if it doesn’t work, I’ll go for another brand that does.

Based on the above information, Sony may keep its relationship with Sony-Ericsson and may even use their phone technology if it’s fitting. But they should brand the PP as their own product and market it to their base of customers. If Sony-Ericsson doesn’t like it, too bad. Start making stuff that works.

Therefore, play to your strengths. Brand this as a Sony Playstation-phone (made in conjuntion with Sony-Ericsson). Make it a really nifty playstation that can also place phone calls. Basically, make your core audience love it, then use them to appeal to others. Where many are gathered, more will follow.

*Sentences bearing an asterisk such as why Sony should enter the mobile space or how it competes with Apple/Disney will be discussed in a later posts.