Sony today announced its NGP, "next generation portable" games console (or as some wits are saying, "Nintendo Got Pwned"). From the tech specs of the device, you could think it's actually a smartphone: it runs Android, has a touchscreen, GPS, and connectivity is over 3G, WiFi and Bluetooth.
Really though it's not the hardware that's the most exciting thing - it's Sony's Android-based PlayStation Suite development environment that has the capacity to change the world of mobile games in a way we haven't seen since the initial launch of Apple's iPhone.
The PlayStation Suite of course allows developers to create for the NGP, but it also supports Android from version 2.3 and up. Basically, Sony's game developer partners can now use Sony's game development tools to address any handset running Android. Sony will be running a games "app store" open to all Android users.
The significance of this is huge. This means top quality PlayStation games created using some of the best games development kit by the world's best games developers will be available to the millions of Android devices out there.
This is somewhat similar to Microsoft's game development suite, XNA, but Sony is taking an open approach by addressing the Android platform. This changes the dynamic from an impact on only Microsoft devices to something an order of magnitude greater - the soon-to-be hundreds of millions of Android devices.
The Android Market itself is struggling. It is struggling to attract quality apps primarily because of the poor billing mechanism - no serious developer wants to put their premium content in a "free" environment, and developers won't invest in producing good quality exclusive content if there is no prospect of a decent ROI. This makes Android devices look like the "poor cousin" of the iPhone, and that's not necessarily because of the capabilities of the hardware, but the missed opportunity Google had to build a great ecosystem with the Android Market.
In other words, this could be a huge boost to Android. The quality of content that the PlayStation Suite and Store will open up to consumers will mean Android could overtake iPhone as the premium platform for apps.
On the other hand, it will weaken the Android Market further. Games is easily the number one category of apps, and if all the quality games are elsewhere, the Android Market could become little more than a store for sub-par, low quality, free apps.
What does all this mean for Google? This could be seen to weaken Google's mobile advertising play - although only for in-app advertising. Google has generated more than a billion dollars of mobile ad revenue and that was prior to incorporating revenues from in-app advertising. Ultimately I believe the effect will be net positive. Anything that makes Android devices more appealing to consumers benefits not only the manufacturers (HTC, LG, Motorola, Samsung, and SonyEricsson of course) but also Google's ambition to drive open standards-based smartphones into the market and thus increase the addressable market for its search and display advertising.
Entertainment isn't just fun and games you know, this is serious business.