Sony is at it again. After failing for years to come up with anything resembling a successful digital Walkman to capture a nice chunk of either the MP3 or the nascent digital video markets, the company recently announced the Mylo
, a new "portable broadband device" targeted at college students.
On the surface, the Mylo--which stands for my life online--is a pretty cool little gadget. It's got a sharp, colorful 2.4-inch screen for viewing MPEG-4 videos and JPEG images, built-in Wi-Fi, instant messaging, Web browsing, e-mail access, and Internet phone calling via Skype. The only problem is that Sony is initially setting the Mylo's price at $350--pretty ridiculous, considering you can get a smart phone right now that does everything the Mylo does--albeit without the Mylo's 1GB of built-in memory--for the same dough or less (with a new service plan). And while college campuses are currently among the few places that have fairly ubiquitous Wi-Fi coverage, out in the real world, where Wi-Fi availability is still spotty at best, the Mylo loses a lot of its value.
The $350 Sony Mylo: DOA?
I don't mind that Sony is out there creating sexy-looking new gizmos. That's what it does, and it gives me something to write about. I just wish the company would have more discipline in creating gizmos that are priced right. Or smarter yet, build upon successful and relatively fast-growing platforms such as the PSP's, which is capable of doing exactly what the Mylo does--and maybe doing it even better--for less money.
The Sony PSP costs $199. It's not perfect, but all things considered, it's one of Sony's finest efforts in recent years--and it's supported by a business model that makes sense: affordable hardware subsidized by game sales. Built-in Wi-Fi? Check. Web browser? Check. Plays MPEG-4 videos and JPEG images? Check and check. Built-in keyboard? Ah, there's the rub. A virtual one, yes; mini QWERTY, no. And the PSP isn't exactly pocket friendly either, though it is compact and does have a bigger, wider screen that's more conducive to video watching and Web browsing than the Mylo's.
To be fair, Sony is gradually beginning to exploit the true potential of the PSP as both an entertainment and a communications device. Gradual has several connotations, however, and Sony's flavor tends to lean toward the slow variety, rather than the steady. The first few PSP system upgrades arrived weeks apart; now they come month to month and seem to be relatively minor tweaks. Let's pick up the pace, boys. How 'bout a little Skype for the PSP? I mean, if they can do it for the Mylo, why not for the PSP? Oh, that's right: the PSP already has VoIP functionality built into a game called SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo; there's even a decent headset that you can pick up for less than $20. So all Sony needs to do is write a little software app and let the college kids jabber away.
What's your wish-list for the existing PSP and/or the PSP2?
The missing keyboard is a harder fix. The Logic 3 keyboard was cancelled before entering production, but it was supposed to snap on the PSP's bottom and snake a cable around the back to its sole USB port. Of course, it would've helped if Sony had put that USB jack on the bottom of the device instead of on the top, but I'd be game for a semikludge solution in the interim, before we see a PSP2. I like the idea of one of those almost-full-size, fold-up keyboards that were once a popular accessory for Palm handhelds. Like the Palm version, the keyboard would have a built-in stand for the PSP, so you could prop it up at just the right angle for glare-free viewing.
I have a few other suggestions, but rather than drone on, I'll keep it brief, and summarize.
Wish-list of items for the existing PSP:
1) Skype support to make Internet calls (includes accessory headset).
2) Support for Slingbox. Yes, I know you sell Location-Free TV, but why bother selling the hardware when you can make more money teaming up with Sling and selling a PSP-version of its Slingbox mobile application for $34.95?
3) Built-in instant-messaging applications. In addition to Mylo's Yahoo Instant Messenger and Google Talk, let's see AIM as well.
4) Better e-mail integration. How 'bout some quick ways to check Yahoo Mail and Gmail. I know Microsoft properties (MSN, Hotmail, Live Mail) are off limits, but why not some e-mail apps from popular companies that you aren't competing with? Say, Google Desktop for PSP?
5) Keyboard accessory (see above).
6) A video-output cable so I can watch videos and play games on TV. Come on, it doesn't have to be digital or anything. Gimme some crappy analog video output, so I don't have to resort to one of those awful camera hoods. (The developer versions of the PSP have video output, by the way.)
7) Connect me. And by that, I mean your Connect music/video service that's supposed to give iTunes a run for its money. I know, it's been delayed. But the PS3 isn't the only horse in the race, and there are millions of content-hungry PSP owners already out there.
Wish-list for the PSP2:
1) Built-in 40GB or 60GB hard drive (offer various configurations at various prices, as the iPod does). If the hard disk is seen as too fragile, a fairly capacious load of flash memory--say, 4GB to 12GB--would be a worthwhile alternative.
2) Faster UMD disc reader--or whatever it takes to reduce UMD load times. Or, since we now have internal storage--and multigigabyte Memory Sticks--just make the games downloadable, à la Xbox Live Arcade.
3) Built-in Bluetooth (more flexibility for communications and accessories).
4) Put a second USB port on the bottom of the device.
5) A second flash media slot that can accept SD, MMC, and xD cards, in addition to Memory Sticks.
6) Offer at least one more expensive step-up version with the same sort of slide-down keyboard found on the Mylo and the Vaio UX180P ultramobile PC.
7) Everything from the above wish-list for the existing PSP.
I know, some of this stuff is a stretch. But focus, guys. Stop with the expensive multimedia gadgets already. You've got a good one that's reasonably priced. Now just make it better; refine it in the way that Apple does with its iPod franchise. Is that so hard?
What's your wish-list for the existing PSP and/or the PSP2?