PlayStation Phone Possible But Hardware, Business Strategy Still Vague

Rumors of a PlayStation phone (and PSP users' interest in same) has swirled around the Internet since the original PSP-2000 launched, but Sony has never commented on the question of whether or not it would actually bring such a device to market. Ever since Nokia's N-Gage disaster, phone manufacturers and console developers alike have looked askance at the idea of a combination device. The advent of touch technology and the recent surge in smartphone capabilities may have established phones as popular gaming platforms, but no one has had the guts to attempt to marry the two functionalities again.

It's a little-known fact, but failure is actually shaped just like a taco

This alleged prototype has taken some flak on the grounds that it isn't fancy enough. On TV shows, prototypes are slick, futuristic, and mirror-finished. In reality, prototypes are manually soldered together, there's duct tape all over the back, and the MP3 player randomly kicks out I Am The Walrus.

Sony's last attempt to design a download-only handheld device led to the execrable and virtually moribund PlayStation Go. That's not a vote of confidence, but if the company actually learned from its mistakes last time around, this new phone could be a serious contender in the mobile market. According to rumor, the new PSPhone will sport a 1GHz processor, 512MB of RAM, 1GB of ROM (additional expandable storage available via microSD), and an integrated camera (with flash). On paper, that's enough muscle to take on the high-end of the smartphone market—but we think Sony has something much more interesting up its sleeve.

Up until quite recently, any speculation on a new handset's CPU would have revolved around what type of ARM processor it would use, but MIPS has announced that it's developing mobile processors in conjunction with Android products. All of the various flavors of the PSP have used the MIPS-designed R4000 core, which implies existing PSP games could be ported to the new device with fewer issues than would otherwise exist. Considering that the PSP's twin R4000's are manufactured on a 90nm process, it's easy to imagine a 1GHz MIPS core built on a 40nm process with a much smaller power envelope.

Handled correctly, this type of sideways compatibility could be a huge draw for PSP owners, but we're not optimistic. The PSP Go has been a total failure, but it's not a unique total failure. Sony's history is littered with high-quality formats and/or devices that failed thanks to the absurd restrictions Sony saddled them with. The PlayStation Go was dead on arrival thanks to its online-only game distribution, users' inability to play previously purchased PSP titles, and Sony's failure to guarantee that PSP titles would definitely come to the PSP Go as well.

Sony's official stance is that it doesn't comment on rumors or speculation. All of the above definitely qualifies. But while we're at it, here's a bit more.  With the PSP Go on the brink of extinction and a second-generation PSP in the works, a hybrid phone/handheld could have enough room to establish itself. Presumably Sony would be more concerned with forward compatibility than backward if this turns out to be the case.