The news that Sony has paid £1 billion to buy out Ericsson from the two companies’ joint mobile phone venture did not come as a surprise. Rumours had been flying for weeks that a deal was in the offing. But the confirmation acts as an undoubted marker in Sony’s attempts to push itself harder against rival manufacturers, Apple in particular.
Sony’s reemergence as a solo player in the smartphone space could herald some seriously impressive kit in the next year or so. Sir Howard Stringer is already playing up the importance of the acquisition, but it’s his comments surrounding sharing content that are the most telling, “We can help people enjoy all our content – from movies to music and games – through our many devices, in a way no one else can.”
Wresting back control of the smartphone space isn’t just about making hardware that doesn’t feel compromised (as much of Sony Ericsson’s range always has), although that will doubtless be one of the benefits of this deal. It’s about a wider strategy that will hopefully help Sony assert itself as a legitimate content provider to rival Apple.
This plays into Sony’s so-called ‘four screen strategy’, hooking up phones, TVs, computers and tablets. No other manufacturer has as much cache across such a wide range of devices as Sony. More importantly, they’re also able to offer an unparalleled gaming experience via the PlayStation Network, on top of the music and video unlimited services.
It’s a safe bet that Sony will turn to Android to help facilitate a decent user experience on its phones. But aside from that, it’ll be able to offer access to content that other manufacturers can only dream of. There’s potential for a proper PlayStation Phone, as well as fully integrated video and music stores that only iTunes can really hold a candle too.
Obviously, this all depends on Sony ensuring the phones themselves are properly locked down and not subject to the vagaries of network bloatware and awkward apps that detract from the overall experience. But the idea of having a phone that matches the Sony Tablets’ ability to seamlessly fling content to compatible TVs is an exciting one. Apple is doing this with its AirPlay video streaming and screen mirroring tech already, but Sony’s development in this area could provide the kind of top-end competition so many in the tech world are desperate to see.
The gaming aspect is fascinating too. Apple has dominated in this area, but if Sony can release a device that takes advantage of its PlayStation capabilities, offering games that don’t cost the earth, then Cupertino is going to have to start worrying. This deal is undoubtedly exciting and could bring the competition in content that the mobile world so desperately needs.