There’s more to a smartphone or tablet than a specs list and its construction quality. Sometimes we get lost in how fast a device is, how much RAM it’s got tucked under the hood, and how sharp its screen may be. Something equally as important as all that is timing — and Sony can’t seem to get it right.
Before we get into Sony’s problems with its release scheduling let’s look at its other product offerings. Sony has its hand in almost every pot. Sony makes music players, gaming systems, televisions, home audio, video games, cameras, smartphones, tablets, and it even makes movies and music. Some of these industries have very tight deadlines. Movies, for example, have production schedules that are some of the most complicated of any projects around. Designers, script writers, set dressers, actors, grips, producers, and even caterers must all be coordinated (and much more), all to meet a deadline so a movie can be released on a specific day — or the production house could lose a lot of money because it missed a holiday weekend. What does all that have to do with smartphones?
This year’s Consumer Electronics Show wrapped up in January. There we got to see the Sony Xperia Z, sporting a Snapdragon S4 Pro SoC. At the time, that was something impressive. Three months later, when we finally got our hands on the phone, the S4 Pro was already starting to show its age. The S4 Pro is a great chip, don’t get me wrong, but the Xperia Z and ZL are the flagship phones from Sony. HTC’s flagship sports a Snapdragon 600, and Samsung’s includes either the Snapdragon 600 or its own Exynos 5 Octa. Both are significant upgrades to the S4 Pro, yet Sony’s current flagship is running yesterday’s processor.
The Tablet Z could have been huge, but it’s only hitting the market now. Sure, the hardware is amazing, but the response in the market hasn’t been impressive. To be competitive, Sony’s tablet needed to have come out months ago.
Sony’s botched timing is nothing new
Remember the Xperia X10 which took forever to launch in the U.S.? It also came with the Cup Cake version of Android when Froyo had already been launched.
How about the Xperia Play, the so-called “PlayStation Phone”? That’s a wonderdul idea — it flopped. I’m not saying the hardware was great, or even its implementation. The concept, however, is brilliant! A portable entertainment system that’s also your phone… oh, and it also runs all your Android apps, too?! Sign me up! Unfortunately, it never lived up to expectations.
Now Sony has an entirely unrelated product coming to market “this holiday season”: the PlayStation 4. I’m not a big PlayStation fan, but even I can see that Sony has a huge opportunity here. They’re releasing the latest generation of their gaming console. All current PS3 owners are going to want a new PS4 under the tree this year. Sony could have a smartphone and a tablet that could be released at the same time and let PS4 owners take their mobile entertainment with them — anywhere! Gamers could use their Sony tablet or Sony smartphone to control their games or movies played through the console. They could all be one big “PlayStation” family.
But it won’t happen
Sony won’t build a family of products that work together seamlessly. Similarly, they won’t build products that augment the experience of one device on the others. Even if it had such a cross-branding and cross-compatibility plan in motion, given its history I can’t imagine it would get the timing right.
I don’t know why
Sony has produced movies like The Amazing Spider-Man, Angels and Demons, and even the Total Recall remake. All of which are big-budget titles with credits that are almost as long as the movies themselves. Obviously a lot of coordination, planning, and execution had to go into each film. Why can’t Sony take that same foresight, planning, and project management and apply it to smartphones and tablets. I think they can, and the time to do it is now.