Thursday, October 27, 2011 at 11:45 am.

Sony’s smartphone problem: Software!

Sony Ericsson phonesSony just bought its partner Ericsson out of their struggling mobile phone venture, Sony Ericsson. Now Sony is apparently going to try to become a big player in the smartphone business.

Ignoring how late this move is, here’s the bigger problem: Today’s smartphone industry is less about hardware and more about software, platforms, and services. But I can’t think of a single time that Sony has impressed me with anything software-related.

The Sony I know has always had the potential to make high-quality hardware, and to miniaturize things in an elegant way. The Sony MiniDisc player I had in the late 90s was a great little device. The Sony Ericsson phones I owned from 2002-2005 were some of the best around. Sony’s Vaio laptops have always seemed like nice hardware, relative to the Windows competition. And Sony’s cameras are fine. But that stuff is just one part of the gadget business now.

What is Sony possibly going to do with software that would give it a distinct advantage over the iPhone, other Android devices, or even Microsoft phones? Some sort of PSP integration might have seemed ground-breaking half a decade ago, but now Apple is the handheld gaming leader. Not much else about Sony is interesting or must-buy anymore. What, are they going to make a Blu-ray phone?

There is still an opportunity, I suppose, to become one of the better, high-end Android phone makers, and to do something with the PSP brand. That doesn’t excite me, but perhaps that’s where to start. It’s just hard to see Sony becoming a leader or building a great business here.

Also: Of course Nintendo should make iPhone games