Sony breaks silence over ‘PlayStation phone’ rumours
A Sony executive has hinted that it will be bringing a PlayStation phone to the market, following leaked photos of such a product appearing online last week.
The photos, which were leaked onto Engadget’s site, purported to show a Sony Ericsson handset combined with a PlayStation Portable games console.
The blog speculated that the device will run the upcoming version of Google’s Android operating system, known as Gingerbread, along with a custom-made “Sony Marketplace” that will enable people to download games designed specifically for the device.
Engadget expects the device to be launched officially next year, and an announcement about the so-called PlayStation phone’s availability could be made at Mobile World Congress in February.
Last week Sony refused to comment. However, Masaru Kato, Sony’s chief financial officer, hinted it may launch a PlayStation phone product on an earnings call over the weekend.
He said, through an interpreter: “As for the new PSP product, as mentioned, I know that you are not asking me to tell you when we will be coming out with a new product, but there is a gaming market based on [the] cellphones, and there are many changes that are being seen [with] Nintendo, as well as ourselves, in the field of the product for the gamers.
"And there are smartphones and others or even cellphones gaming markets are very popular here in Japan. So the market itself is very... expanding.”
He stopped short of talking about specific products, but also mentioned the company’s interest in tablet computers.
“Of course, we can't talk about specific products, but smartphones and tablets... it is difficult to tell you how we can put the games on them, but they are not going to be planned in different parts of our company.
“When we organised ourselves last April, we introduced network services, and within that umbrella, network services, all of these products are handled. Therefore, the planning and the prototypes for various content [are] all carried out within this... one umbrellas.
"So we are trying to figure out what we can do as Sony in this market. I think this is as far as I can tell you regarding these products at market," he explained.
Speculation has been rife for some time that Sony would license its PlayStation brand to the Sony Ericsson mobile arm of its business. In July last year, Nikkei, a respected daily business newspaper in Japan, reported that Sony was considering such a product.
Sony was said to have set up a dedicated team to work on the handset, that would bring together the Sony Ericsson division with the multimedia and gaming team behind the PlayStation Portable handheld games console.
Sony is said to be concerned by the threat posed by Apple’s iPhone. Dozens of major games studios, including Capcom and Electronic Arts, are developing games for Apple’s touch-screen device, potentially pitting the iPhone and iPod touch directly against Sony’s PSP console and Nintendo’s hand-held device, the DS.
However, gaming fans will not be getting their hopes up – rumours of a PSP phone first surfaced in 2007, when Sony filed a patent application showing a portable games device with phone capabilities, while in January 2009, Sony was said to have refused to sanction the use of the PlayStation brand by its Sony Ericsson telecoms arm.