On Tuesday, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is expected to unveil its latest line of devices, including the iPhone 5 and a cheaper version of the iPhone 4. The company’s competitors continue to fight Apple on its own terms, releasing smartphone after smartphone and hoping one connects with consumers on the same level. Sony (NYSE:SNE), on the other hand, is trying something else with its PlayStation Vita — a device that looks like an old-fashioned portable video game machine at first blush but might turn out to be much, much more.
Sony Computer Entertainment director of hardware marketing John Koller detailed for InvestorPlace his company’s plans to carve out a new ecosystem in the mobile space.
“We firmly believe that PlayStation Vita will supersede the mobile market when launched, and have grand ambitions for a product that is really at the forefront of innovation,” he said. “The mobile market in the U.S. offers consumers extremely light gaming options. We developed PlayStation Vita after observing a significant addressable market that demands rich, deep handheld gaming.”
In terms of purely addressing the video game market, the Vita certainly has the partners to perform well. When the device releases in the U.S. next spring (Vita releases in Japan in December), it will be backed by entries in multimillion-copy-selling franchises like Activision Blizzard‘s (NASDAQ:ATVI) Call of Duty and Time Warner-owned (NYSE:TWX) Warner Bros. Interactive’s Mortal Kombat.
Given that video games are the most-used apps on smartphones — iPhone users play games for about 15 hours per month on average — Sony is smart to try to win untapped revenue in the mobile market with a high-end, $250 device Apple’s current technology can’t match.
The Vita is just one component of a larger mobile strategy Sony is unfurling, though. The reason Sony and Apple are direct competitors even though their marquee mobile devices are so different is that they are attempting to create whole new ecosystems of products and services to drive sales. Apple’s devices have been hugely successful in large part because of the iTunes and App Store digital storefronts and the entertainment options sold through both. While Sony has opened plenty of digital services in the past, such as the Qriocity subscription music service, its efforts have been disjointed. The Vita and PlayStation Suite look to change that.