Last night, Engadget’s Editor-In-Chief Joshua Topolsky came across some information about a device that has gamers and tech whores drooling. A Sony Erricson Android phone outfitted with a D-pad, a touch pad and bearing the PlayStation name. This device is said to run the yet-to-release Android 3.0 (Gingerbread) operating system. Now while this device, on paper, may have the features straight out of a fanboy’s wet dream (mine included), the reality is that it could very well become Sony’s worst nightmare.
If you’re unfamiliar with Android, the Google-created and Linux-based operating system, in the past two years it has pretty much taken over the smart-phone market in the US. While Apple and their iPhone are tied down to the Death Star also known as AT&T they also have an application store that has more restrictions than a 3rd world prison. On the other hand Google has always promoted this idea of Android being a truly open platform for everyone. And when I say everyone it’s not only about carriers, it’s about app developers and even homebrew creators, modders, and tinkerers. So much so that there are whole communities devoted to “rooting” any and all Android devices.
Once someone has “root” they pretty much have complete access to the entire phone, including sensitive files and folders which allow for full modification. Some phones are so easy to root that it can literally be done with one click. How would they stop piracy on a platform that kind-of unofficially condones it? I mean seriously, as of this writing, in the Android market there’s currently an app called PSX4Droid that allows you to boot up your PS One (wink wink) “Back Up” files. Cool? Yes. Ethical and practical? I just don’t know.
So while most will see this new device as the next Sony platform, a place for great games to thrive in the mobile market like never before, there are serious security risks. Sony has been fighting the war on piracy of their portable titles since the PlayStation Portable released in 2005 (stateside). I am sure some of you will say that piracy on the PSP is done by a very small minority or that it isn’t prevalent, but if that was the case why would Sony release constant firmware updates to their portable?
I am among those who will be the first to tell you that this device is capable of great things and brings a new chapter to the PlayStation brand. For the aesthetically-driven, imagine only having to hold one slim device in your pocket at a time and having access to your smart-phone, and all that entails, in addition to a full-featured gaming device all-in-one. For the first time downloading games from the PSN store will be possible on the go, with or without Wi-Fi. In addition to this, many location-based features we’ve seen already in the mobile market can be added to games, or spawn new concepts entirely.
The ability for the PlayStation platform to make this transition will also allow for a new wave of games to hit from developers large and small who favor the open platform Android has brought to the world and the low entry barriers it presents, but at what cost remains to be seen. Android’s open platform could very well prove to be too vulnerable for this new yet-unborn PlayStation to survive in.
How will Sony stop any army of experienced rooters that will be just waiting to tear apart the device the minute that its launched. How will Android 3.0 help to protect the integrity of the PSP integration without losing what Android is all about? Or will Sony’s entry force Android to close the doors and lock them up as it transitions to 3.0?
What do you think? Is it a match made in heaven? Or is it a Sony Nightmare in the making?
Let us know in the comments section!
[This was a collaborated piece by Joel Taveras and Jon Ireson.]