Rumours are surfacing that Sony Ericsson is planning an Android 3.0-powered gaming handset and platform, and perhaps even working on it with Google. Tech blog Engadget quotes sources who claim that the device is in the late stages of planning and could be introduced as early as October.
The idea, it seems, is to offer both a gaming-focused handset and a service that other compatible handsets will be able to hook into. The phone itself is unnamed, but said to be a landscape slider with a D-pad and four action buttons in place of the usual QWERTY keyboard. There'll also be a touch-sensitive strip for analogue control, and -- of course -- the screen is touch sensitive.
Specs-wise, it's not a huge step forward, but sits at the very top end of the current Android offerings in the market. There's a 1GHz Snapdragon CPU, a 5-megapixel camera and a display that'll be somewhere between 3.7-and 4.1-inches with WVGA resolution.
More importantly, the operating system will be Android 3.0, possibly making it one of the first handsets to get the new version of Google's phone platform. A new area of the Android market will be dedicated specifically for games for compatible phones, and graphically, the games are said to be in the range of PSX and PSP tiltles like God of War and LittleBigPlanet.
For some time Google has sat back and watched as the liminations of Android's platform prevented the kind of explosive game development seen on the iPhone. That's now changed, and Android games are very slowly starting to get some traction, but in nowhere near the volumes seen on Apple's device. This tie-up with Sony Ericsson could bring some Playstation expertise on board.
It's good news for Sony, too. It's widely acknowledged that the PS3 has lost the battle of the current console generation, and the PSP failed againts the DS, too. Hitching its wagon to Google's Android steam train should help bring the company back towards the forefront of games development, especially with such a big, important casual games market opening up.
What's not yet known is the exact technical specs of the device, what kind of games will be available (courting indie developers will be essential, rather than trying to rely on big-budget franchises), and how much the handset will cost. All those things could nip the success of this project in the bud, if they're not handled correctly.
But if the companies handle this one right, then Apple's Apple Store policies could suddenly seem as quaint as having a MySpace profile.
By Duncan Geere, www.wired.co.uk