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Michael Baxter

Sony’s opportunity

Written by: Michael Baxter on February 21st 2013

Category: Thought for the day

Has Sony got it right at last? It has unveiled, or at least announced, its new PlayStation 4. This is more than just a games machine; it is Sony’s attempt to dominate the living room once again. The product is not just an attempt to increase share of the video games market, it is broadside against Apple, Samsung, most certainly Microsoft, and maybe even Google. It also has implications for TV companies such as ITV and BSkyB.

In the world of video games two things really matter: raw power and clever programmers/games designers.

A new games console can have as much power as a million pound super-computer, but without software that does it justice, there is not much point.

You can have some truly brilliant programmers and games designers, but without hardware of sufficient power, they will eventually hit a brick wall.

It has always been thus. In the UK and back in the mid-1980s the ZX Spectrum benefitted because it was supported by an extraordinarily talented software industry. But for all its ingenuity, this industry hit a limit, a point when the limitations of the hardware made further innovation almost impossible, and the industry went into recession. It did not fully recover until we saw the rise of Nintendo and Sega in the UK. The Spectrum was supported by good software, but in terms of hardware it is/was to the latest Sony PlayStation what a beach hut is to the Shard.

Sony’s key advantage is that from the first PlayStation onwards its hardware has been pretty much state of the art. Its problem has been that it has often let Microsoft get off the blocks first. Take the PlayStation 3 and its Microsoft rival. The last PlayStation was technically a superb product, but its releases lagged behind the equivalent Xbox by many months, and its initial price was way too high. As a result it did not get the software support it needed, and the product has always floundered against that of Microsoft.

This time, Sony seems to be determined to fix those mistakes. It may not be successful, but it sure is throwing everything it has at the product. Frankly it has to. Will Sony have a future without a successful new PlayStation?

Some critics say Sony will fail because people play games on their iPad or smart phone these days. But then again, for playing games the Sony hardware is superior. For playing games, comparing the new Sony to the iPhone is like comparing a large town house with the Shard.

But the new Sony is more than just a games machine. Sony wants its product to be the interactive hub in our living room; the controller from which we watch TV; the hardware that enables us to watch downloaded films, TV shows, and interactive magazines from the Internet.  As such, it is going head to head with companies such as Samsung and – if Apple’s iTV player proves to be real – Apple too.

This morning the ‘FT’ published an article about the future of the TV and made a reference to the new Sony. It stated: “Debates about whether Sony is right to bring out a fourth-generation PlayStation as gaming moves online often ignore such devices’ importance for accessing video content.” That really is a very important point. See: New screens require new TV strategy 

The TV experience is set to change in a very profound way. YouTube type services will take on more importance. Sony may piggy back on Google technology. Alternatively Sony apps designed for the living room may become as popular as iPhone apps.

In such a world why do we need TV stations?

These views and comments are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the view of The Share Centre, its officers and employees

Tags: future of the TV, games consoles versus iPads, interactive hub in our living room, PlayStation 4 and the living room, Sony versus Apple over future of TV, Will Sony have a future without a successful new PlayStation?, ZX Spectrum Nintendo and Sega and Sony

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