The Battle for the Future is Between Sony and Apple
Recently there have been a bunch of iPhone “killers” being released by Samsung, LG, HTC, etc… These phones are being really heavily touted by the carriers, but really they don't matter. The battle is between Sony and Apple.
Here's why. First, motivation. Sony is still licking its chops after being destroyed over the whole Walkman thing, and losing the mobile music market. They are admitting that they had the wrong approach with ATRAC, and that Apple has the right approach. They are sort of admitting that no one wants MiniDisc, or those strange mini DVD's that the PSP runs, that digital downloads are the way.
The second is that Sony has, as evidenced, a distribution system in their online download system for the PS3. This system has the capability to deliver high definition blu-ray content through to not only the PS3, but to the PSP. This indicates that, like Apple, they have not only the hardware to do this, but the infrastructure to deliver games, pluse movies, and audio / podcasts down to a device.
The third is the PSP. Sony has a portable gaming platform that has a significant amount of power and flexibility in a reasonably small form factor. The Skype phone functionality is an interesting add-on feature to the PSP in this regard. The ability to run downloaded games directly to the PSP and from the PS3 is interesting, and could presage things to come. Apple has been directly marketing the iPhone / iPod touch as a fantastic mobile gaming platform. Most of the press that I have seen has been indicating that they are competing with the Nintendo DS, but no one has been thinking about how this would affect Sony.
The fourth is media. Sony is one of the largest movie companies in the world, and is one of the largest music companies in the world. They have huge media resources to populate an online store with digital distribution without needing to strike up agreements with anyone else.
The fifth is Ericsson. Sony currently has agreements with most major phone carriers around the world, along with devices out there. They have the phone components available, suppliers, etc…
All in all, a Sony PlayStation Phone would make a formidable competitor to the iPhone in the mobile space. You would have a device that could play already vetted games, like Metal Gear Solid 4, and Grand Theft Auto, thousands, and thousands more good games, plus new original content. It could play high-definition movies over wi-fi, or 3G using blu-ray, or MP4, as Sony has support for it in the PS3, and 3GP support in the PSP. In addition, they have the mobile chipsets for good phones. Also, Sony has shown a tendency to allow hacking to various degrees of their firmwares, etc… It would be an extremely strong option in contrast to the iPhone.
Where all of this breaks down however, is at the SDK level. Apple has tons of experience building developer tools and environments. The Cocoa framework, paired with Objective-C and developed in XCode is one of the most elegant environments I have every developed against. I can't really see Sony developing outstanding tools given how difficult it has been for people to develop for the PSP and the PS3. Sony can do what it has been doing with the PS3, which is throw money at it, and upgrade the firmware until you have a winner. Which can certainly work, but I think success could be a long time coming, unless they have been working on it since last year, but its hard to say how any developer community will handle a new system.
Sony will not continue to let Apple kick them in the teeth. When the PlayStation came out, they had an uphill battle against Nintendo, Sega, etc… that they won through sheer determination, plus some tragic missteps by their competitors. Apple is firing on all 8 cylinders right now, but I'm sure Sony is watching for any weakness they can take advantage of. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see a PlayStation Phone around Christmas time.