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Sony's Sexy, Smart NGP Portable: Odds Against Apple Better With Android

Sony's announcement about the next PSP portable, codenamed NGP (for next generation portable) is making gamers buzz way ahead of its Christmas 2011 launch. But buried in the long list of impressive specs is one particularly smart detail: The NGP games will be playable on Android devices and likely vice versa.

Google (GOOG) is a smart ally to have, especially as both parties look to take down the Apple (APPL) and Nintendo (NTYDO) portables, though Sony will have to tread carefully to make sure Google doesn't gobble up its market share.

Smart console, smart partnership
First, the console specs, which are pretty great:

Sony is also introducing the PlayStation Suite, which lets developers create games that are compatible with both the new NGP portable and the Android platform. Sony is promoting console agnosticism, which, considering its penchant for proprietary products and crippling copy-protection management, shows how much the company wants to change its culture. Based on the announcement, Android apps will be available for the NGP, too, especially since this partnership is a likely warmup to the upcoming PlayStation Phone.

With this strategy, Sony would give itself (and the 300,000 Android phones activated daily) a good edge:

  • Developers could create games for the NGP and know the apps will be compatible with the millions of Android devices available
  • Sony would get a nice cut of any game or app sold via the PlayStation Suite on other platforms
  • With strong specs, Sony would have the best platform for Android games
Pandora's (the other one) box

But the Google partnership isn't without risk. First, depending on how carefully Sony monitors the NGP's Google Market, the portable console would be vulnerable to viruses and other malicious software. Unlike Apple, which checks its apps before they are approved, Google usually finds problems with Android apps after they are available -- the challenge of Android's so-called open source platform. Google would rather trust developers to create what they see fit for consumers, which runs counter to the checks-and-balances systems used by companies like Apple and, indeed, Sony. It's unclear how apps will be available to use on the portable, but it's clear that the Sony NGP is prepared to take on Android's host of insecurities -- especially since Google's own devices can barely keep viruses away.

Second, the market deal with Sony could pique Google's interest in portable console gaming. Considering the company's considerable wealth and tentacle reach, Google could end up creating its own console that competes directly with Sony. Worse, in light of Sony's flimsy financial picture, Google could go straight up for an acquisition -- something that seems far fetched until you remember that rival Apple was rumored to be going after the same thing last fall.

For now, however, the partnership seems not only good, but necessary. The adage "My enemy's enemy is my friend" never seemed more appropriate.

Photo courtesy of Sony Computer Entertainment