Is "One Sony" really "One Sony + Android"?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Is "One Sony" really "One Sony + Android"?

When Kaz Hirai first mentioned the new "One Sony" initiative, he mentioned a component of the plan that isn't a major bullet point in the final draft, but one that could be extremely important to how Sony moves forward with its products. If you read through the press release which details the "One Sony" strategy, it reads like a fairly standard business plan to get a company back on track: downsize, reorganize, lower costs, add markets, and improve the quality of products. That's a recipe that any MBA student could probably write up, but there was another word sprinkled throughout that could prove far more important: integration.

Back in March, when we first heard about "One Sony", a phrase that we keyed in on was "horizontal integration". The specific context was that Kunimasa Sazuki was being put in charge of User Experience (“UX”) & Product Strategy and Creative Platform with the "aim of strengthening horizontal integration and enhancing the user experience across Sony's entire product and network service lineup." That phrase felt like it could hold quite a bit of potential. 

Sony has always been a company with a few great products, but enough near-misses to make one wonder why things couldn’t be better. The company is quite large, with hundreds of products spread all through the world of electronics from TVs to mobile devices to cameras and audio equipment, as well as quite a stable of top notch software developers, some working on proprietary software, but most creating games for the various PlayStation platforms. There are only a few companies that have both quality hardware and software capabilities, but even in that group Sony is an outlier. 

End-to-end development

With other companies that have the capability to create top notch hardware and software, you almost always see those companies integrating the two sides. Of course, the premier example is Apple which has created such an incestuous ecosystem, that all of its hardware runs one of the company’s two platforms: iOS and MacOS. Samsung has a variety of mobile devices running its own bada OS, and has hinted that there may be bada-powered TVs in the future. Nokia has/had Symbian for quite a long time, and of course RIM has BlackBerry hardware and software all tied together. Then, there’s Sony. 

Sony electronics can often play well together, but only in limited ways through specific Sony software. There are always limitations because while PlayStation systems run proprietary operating systems, Sony computers are all running Windows, and its mobile devices are mostly Android. For a company with so many software developers, it just seems odd that the company had never built a platform that could bring together its various devices. 

So, when we first heard the phrase “horizontal integration”, we perked up, especially since we had been primed by Sony Senior VP Yoshio Matsumoto admitting that Vita OS could be expanded to run on smartphones and tablets. It seemed like Sony might finally take a cue from Steve Jobs and pull together its various divisions into an integrated whole. And, that may well be the plan, but if it is, the current revision of the “One Sony” strategy is lacking those details. 

There are plans to integrate the mobile division and create a cohesive hardware operation from R&D to design and marketing, but there is little mention of what is the plan for the “horizontal integration” in the user experience, which would have to be on the software side. There is direct mention of content integration, which really just means the proliferation of the PlayStation Store and Qriocity Music and Video stores across devices. The question still remains if Sony will follow the path that Steve Jobs always hoped the company would. 

Sony’s choices

Jobs always admred Sony for the company’s design style and potential, but according to his biography last year, Jobs was also disappointed that the company could never pull together to do just what Apple was doing. Maybe copying Apple isn’t the best idea for Sony, but taking a more integrated approach like Samsung, et al could be good for the struggling company. 

The company has already made it clear that its mobile products will be the focal point of its portfolio moving forward, and that it made sure to build in the expandability to allow Vita OS to be used on smartphones and tablets. So, it seems likely that the same OS could also be pushed to TVs, and is obviously going to be very tightly integrated with the PlayStation console. That only leaves out PCs, which will be a smaller and smaller segment of Sony’s arsenal going forward. 

Undoubtedly, the company’s biggest brand name is PlayStation. Unfortunately, that division has historically had trouble being consistently in the black, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be the starting point for integration. We certainly can’t see Sony creating a platform from scratch to fully cover all of its products. But, the way we see it, Sony has three choices for integrating its products more.

First, and possibly most likely given Sony’s history, is that the company will continue to use different platforms for different pieces of hardware and will try to create integration layers that pull each together. Sony has been big with using technologies like DLNA to allow media sharing between devices, and its content stores and streaming media apps can be found on all the different platforms. The trouble is that this leaves us with the same limited integration as before. 

Vita OS has some inherent problems, the biggest of which is developer support. Sony has the capabilities to push out quality games through its first-party developers, and it has its content hubs, but beyond that it would have a pretty long road to achieving app parity with other platforms like Android, iOS, or even Windows Phone and BlackBerry. That’s why we don’t expect to see Vita OS taking over any time soon. Maybe in a couple years, if developers have shown support, it could be pushed out to more devices. 

Lastly, there is Android. Android is already on the mobile devices that Sony plans to be its premier products, and Sony has really been doing well with the open-source side of Android by releasing alpha and beta versions of the Ice Cream Sandwich ROM for various Xperia devices to be tested and reviewed by the community at large. We already know that the PlayStation branding and games will be getting prime placement on Sony mobile devices as well. And, at CES this year, Sony proved that it was committed to Google TV, which is of course based on Android. If the company were to start putting out Android-based audio systems, it could be a prime force behind Google’s Android@Home plans. 


Of course, this all assumes that Sony keeps delivering Google Android devices, and doesn’t fork Android and create its own app store, as Amazon has done. However, Sony has always been a company that shied away from building its own OS, and as has been proven with the terrible updating process on PlayStation 3, OSes are still not the company’s strong suit. So, it seems more likely that Sony will keep trying to mature its own platform, while supporting Android. 

It’s very possible that Vita OS will transition to the PlayStation 4, which is reported to be x86-based, and should offer an easier development platform than Sony’s proprietary hardware. If that were to happen, and developers supported the platform, maybe Sony would make the transition, but for now, the future looks like Android.

As yet, it seems as though Sony is committed to growing its ties with Google, which certainly wouldn’t make Steve Jobs too happy, but the ultimate result should be far more integrated devices that Jobs always hoped the company would create even if it would be "One Sony + Google".



26. thelegend6657 unregistered

Sad . I would like the keep the current xperia arc s design and spec then slap wp7 on top of it Arc s is a great phone but the ui is ugly and android does not run smoothly on it so slapping wp7 on it is a great choice

21. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

Sony has been bouncing on the verge of non-relevance for quite a while. Compared to the PS2, the PS3 is a failure, and except for a few of our local Sony fanboys here, they are all but non existant in the phone world. If it wasnt for their top notch TVs and bluray licencing fees they would not have much brand power left. I like their designs, but they need parity with their devices and they need it fast. They remind me a lot of motorola a few years ago... they know they are in trouble but instead of focusing they are throwing everything against the wall and hoping for a hail Mary. Just like Moto it didnt work very well. Just like Moto, Android is their hail Mary if they can get their act together. Its free without google apps, its pliable, and now its stable. The Vita should have been android based. That would have made a lot more sense than VitaOS.. especially with digital downloads. then they could have instantly given the Vita AND their Android phones access to the full library of the same games. Easier for developers, easier for them. We'll see what happens. Hopefully they get their heads out of their butts. I would hate to see a once great brand like Sony having to be on bended knee to another company just like Moto.

23. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

I can't tell if your view of Sony is outdated or just very US-centric. Do you realize that XBox 360 had a year headstart and right now it is only 2 million in global hardware sales ahead of the PS3 (and is the best selling system of the past couple years? That is far from being a failure, and saying "compared to the PS2" is just silly. That's like saying that lightbulbs are a failure compared to sunshine or that Rovio's next game will be a failure compared to Angry Birds. You can't compare anything to cultural phenomena like that. The Vita being Android would have made it an instant failure. The whole point of the system is that it's an extension of the PS3, not an extension of your phone/tablet. If I were to buy a Vita, it would be to take my PS3 games with me, not to have dual-sticks while playing Zenonia. And Android Vita would be a device with no real point, because it wouldn't replace your phone, or your tablet. The point is to offer a gaming experience above and beyond mobile. I like the way Sony is going. I think Kaz Hirai is a super smart guy, and I think he's got the right ideas moving forward.

24. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

It was relatively speaking. The PS3 is a failure compared to past attempts. The PS1 and PS2 were market dominating devices that sold hundreds of millions in their lifetimes. Comparing the PS3 to them and calling it a failure is OK. Its just like if the iphone5 comes out and it fails to achieve sales anywhere near the i4 or i4s and comes in second place to the SGS3 in sales. It would be a failure by Apple standards of sales. Worldwide sales are interesting. In america, the 360 dominates by a wide margin. In fact it dominates pretty much everywhere except asia where the PS3 has the lead. It mirrors the phone wars decently well. The Vita being android or VitaOS has nothing to do with the ability to take PS3 games with you. They already have playstation games porting to android for their phone. And there is no reason an android based device couldnt connect to the PS3. Its just drivers. Had they taken the amazon route and completely reskinned android most people wouldnt know the difference anyways. The Vita has no real point as it is and wont survive the market, much like the last few playstation portables. Being android would have at least given them the capability to do more while putting less internal resources into making it compatible compared to building a whole new OS. Sony is the Apple of the gaming world. They came out of pretty much nowhere to become an over night sensation. In their arrogance they assume that people will just continue to buy whatever they put out and are behind the curve in many respects and it has cost them dearly. The playstation didnt start catching up for years, and it is already falling behind again. The 360 may of had a 1 year lead but it is picking up steam again while the PS3 is losing it. Dont forget, I came from a gaming site that I contributed to, I am very aware of that industry as well. Console sales are great, but an important factor is software sales, which tells you who is actually using the console. Last month Mass Effect 2 sold at a 4 to 1 ratio on the 360 vs the PS3 version. Thats pretty common. I have both systems. My PS3 is mostly just a bluray player,90% of any gaming I do is on the 360. For all intensive purposes, the PS3 IS a failure... for both hardware and software sales. Dont forget, they dont make money on the PS3, they make money on software licencing. And on that front, last I checked, 360 owners were buying about 300%+ more software and accessories than PS3 owners. Thats a pretty serious divide. More people own/use a PS2 than a PS3 still. rprising-videogame-stats/ 16/game-consoles-march-2012-npd-sales-figure-analy sis/ -1st-time-yearly-global-sales/ x.php/category/us-sales-data-npd/

25. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

In fact, it looks like the vita is already about dead. lackluster sales have developers jumping ship. Having android OS on there could have given it a lot more options and might have helped make it more viable. ng-vita-for-3ds/

27. thelegend6657 unregistered

I have a ps3 I can say it sucks The games are better but they are also super expensive as there are no pirated ones I fixed the ps3 3 exact times Why ? 1st time : display port broken and disc won't read 2nd time : disc stuck ( forgotten to take the disc out and dropped it while I was mopping the floor ) 3rd time (last too ) : wont even boot up I am not fixing it again as the parts are very expensive + I dropped the ps2 a lot too but no problems And the price drop of the thing is stunning too I buy it at the 1st week of launch at Dubai cost rm3000 6 months later rm800

29. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

pirating games retards development of future games. id rather pay the price knowing that it helps them make a sequel to games i like. . like Arkham City. :)

18. BenCjamin

Posts: 80; Member since: May 13, 2011

I am excited for Sony. Since they dropped Ericsson I am hoping to see some sweet products from them and they've already shown a taste of their potential with their new Xperia Ion and Xperia S.They have the gaming side of things already so if they swing it right they're products will blow the competition out of the water. Unfortunately i feel like they're trying to play catch up with everyone else since the Xperia Ion & S are their first dual-core phones Plus they're an american company. Long live America! Now if we could only get them to put in a processor that is better than that Qualcomm piece of crap....

19. spiderpig2894

Posts: 597; Member since: Jan 10, 2012

sony is a japanese company

20. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

who in the world would ever think sony was american!? lol

22. bvalde09

Posts: 191; Member since: Nov 22, 2011

LMFAO @BenCjamin please make some research first

28. Atlas

Posts: 158; Member since: Apr 15, 2012


17. ZetanAlaz

Posts: 14; Member since: Apr 05, 2012

Sony is not on the mainstream of smartphone.. They said, Xperia with quad core will be on 2013 or so.. This strategy, ehmmm... Let's see for the couple years from now.. Jobs wanted Sony to be like Apple (at least), but seems Hirai had his own thought about it..

15. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2578; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

Excuse me I meant "One Sony" not "Sony One" and "One Ford".

14. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2578; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

When I saw them name their new business strategy "Sony One" I couldn't help but think of Ford and their "Ford One" strategy. Ford was successful with their strategy so I hope Sony finds the same success. Actually the strategies themselves are not that different, just applied to different markets.

12. dmn666

Posts: 244; Member since: Oct 19, 2011

Good article, Michael. Android can be their savior at this moment. But eventually, they are gonna have to develop an in-house os to hit the jackpot. And that's not an easy task at all. iOS has been a major key to Apple's success and fat margin as well.

13. dmn666

Posts: 244; Member since: Oct 19, 2011

Oh, I'd love to see a TV with PS integrated just like some Sharp TVs came with built-in blu-ray player. They can shove a PS into the base at least :P. Now that would be one heck of a TV. I don't think any other TV manufacturer can match that. Think about it, Sony :)

10. spiderpig2894

Posts: 597; Member since: Jan 10, 2012

9. darac

Posts: 2156; Member since: Oct 17, 2011

The strategy sounds perfect, but the company will need to be focused, efficient and determinate to make it really tick. And for that you need a really special CEO, a visionary with complete authority. Ahem, and no, that doesn't necessarily mean a Steve Jobs clone. If it works out, Sony could start making history in the coming years. Anyway I'm holding up for their "mint" top dog phone in September. I sense something pretty sweet there. Oh and yes, Android and Google all the way! That is the key for their strategy. Sony loves Android openly, they thanked Google for it bunch of times on their facebook page. Btw, I've read somewhere that Steve Jobs' first smartphone was Sony Ericsson P900.

11. dmn666

Posts: 244; Member since: Oct 19, 2011

Right on, dude! It'll be a challenging task for Kaz. Let's hope for the best. Btw, I'm also waiting for 'mint' as well. Hayabusa is not looking very promising based on what I've read today at Looks like I'm gonna get Xperia S for now.

8. Commentator

Posts: 3723; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

I don't think Apple would be too thrilled to be described as "incestuous," but, then again, "incest is wincest," as the old saying goes.

6. EclipseGSX

Posts: 1778; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

Lol PA changed the image and the headline

7. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

Yeah, my bad. The original idea didn't really match what I ended up writing, and I forgot to change those before the original post.

5. jellytime

Posts: 135; Member since: Dec 05, 2011

Sony is making Iphone 4s camera and they probably worked together before Steve died so I'm pretty sure that Steve has talked with Kaz Hirai and also Jobs always admred Sony which is written in the article but I'm not sure if that is true.

4. bolaG

Posts: 468; Member since: Aug 15, 2011

Good article Michael, I like where Sony is heading and lets hope they do intergrate their products more but be nothing like Apples closed ecosystem.

3. rendHELL

Posts: 304; Member since: Nov 09, 2011

"One Sony + Google"..... I like this line... but soon it should be... Vita OS for it's mobile...

2. ddurand

Posts: 7; Member since: Apr 13, 2012

No. This is just common sense.

1. pongkie

Posts: 663; Member since: Aug 20, 2011

no because steve is dead. like a typical businessman and most likely educated at one very prestigious business schools out there hirai is cost cutting, streamlining to save the company.

16. pongkie

Posts: 663; Member since: Aug 20, 2011

wow great somehow the title of this article change. nice move

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