Last Updated Oct 26, 2010 11:26 AM EDT
First, let's talk about Apple's forte, design. Clean lines, simple interfaces and lightweight hardware are hallmark's of Steve Jobs company. Sony would be the opposite of that, with its bulky products, complicated interfaces and heavier products. Apple is about simplicity, while Sony is about options.
Take a look at the latest iPod Touch compared to the PSP2. The iPod weighs a few ounces and sacrifices the preciseness of buttons for the simplicity of control. Look at it next to Sony's response, the upcoming PSP2 video game multimedia system. According to Gizmodo, the next PSP iteration is expected to have two touchpads, two thumbsticks and "a touchpad on the back of the device." The design would make Jobs have one of his famous tantrums. Why would he want to acquire this legacy?
Actually, the gaming front can be blamed for this pairing. A simple New York Times blog post mentioned Apple, flush with $51 billion in cash, could pick and choose from nearly any competing company to acquire. Good point, but somehow this turned into Apple expected to buy Sony and Electronic Arts (ERTS). The focus here, of course, is the dream of exclusive Sony PlayStation games on Apple devices, not on the actual compatibility in the trifecta of design, culture and innovation.
When it comes to culture, Jobs would essentially be acquiring Sony to gut the darn thing. Both obtuse and sentimental, Sony just decided to kill the Walkman yesterday -- literally -- and yet still managed to miss the digital music bandwagon with a five year-plus headstart over, well, Apple. In a recent interview, former Apple CEO John Sculley notes Jobs was a huge fan of Sony in the early '80s. After receiving one of the first Walkman from Sony founder Akio Morita, he opened up and dissected it to see how it worked, seeing the inner intricacy and design. However, the late Morito and the Walkman would be one of the last moments where Apple and Sony culture actually seemed to intersect.
The cultural differences are reflected in how the companies view innovation. Apple finally released its second Apple TV, which has no local storage and focuses on streaming. When asked about a streaming-only PlayStation 4, Gizmodo quotes Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Kaz Hirai as saying "To think everything will be downloaded in two years, three years or even ten years from now is taking it a little bit to the extreme." Perhaps Hirai never heard of OnLive, the hot video game streaming startup, or GameStop's huge digital download initiative, an acknowledgement that yes, Rome is burning. Sony dabbled in the Apple-style download only game with the PSPGo, but the ruthless decision - not making any of the games from the previous PSPs compatible - made it sink like a stone.
Sony's battle to keep a physical medium, Blu-Ray, relevant, its now weak reputation for consumer-friendly products, and several other factors would make the historic tech company more of a liability than an asset. And if anyone knows that, it's Steve Jobs.