Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Four rules for the DS and PSP

Here is a good application of analyst research. Joystiq follows Forrester's four rules for so-called "Portable Multifunction Devices," and applies it to the Sony PSP and the Nintendo DS.

According to the rules, "Green means that the company is sticking to the rule as well as can be expected. Yellow indicates there may be issues. Red indicates major departure from the rule."

The Forrester rules are in bold, with Joystiq's analysis in regular font.

  1. "Don't lose track of the core function of the device." Sony's Kaz Hirai said, "If someone told you that the PSP is a portable gaming device, shoot these people. The PSP is not a portable gaming device, it is really a convergent portable entertainment device." Gamers might say that Sony lost track of the core function of the device. But the sales indicate that perhaps Sony was right about the "core" functions being broader than mere gaming.
  2. "Only add functions that complement the primary application." We're not sure how Nintendo's plans to release a web browser and a TV Tuner for the DS complement the gaming aspect of the device. On the PSP side of things, we'd argue that the PSP's movie-viewing capability is tremendous, but that the proprietary UMD and Memory Stick formats are so weak that the device fails to reach its potential as a "portable entertainment device."
  3. "Price a multitasking device based on its primary market." Which portable is more appropriately priced? The DS or the PSP? Given that worldwide sales for the PSP recently surpassed US sales for the DS, it could be argued that Sony's higher price point for the PSP hasn't been a major barrier to sales. This leads to the conclusion that perhaps Nintendo and Sony are selling to two very different markets.
  4. "Watch users carefully." When Apple noticed people using the "random" feature of the iPod extensively, they were inspired to distill the iPod into the Shuffle. That's innovative. So far, Sony's simply watching users so that the company can keep releasing upgraded versions of the operating system to thwart modification and hacking. That's not exactly the spirit of the rule, here. Nintendo's great at releasing all sorts of versions of its portable devices.
I have two points I would add that probably fall between Rules 3 & 4. The first is Nintendo has done a great job of trying to facilitate online gaming by working free Wi-Fi deals with McDonald's and others. Smart idea. Makes it easier for people to play games online and best of all it comes at no extra cost to consumers.

The second point is Sony offering the PSP Media Manager software for $19.95. In my opinion, Sony never should have charged for this software, and it should come bundled free with Sony PSPs. If we lived life in a vacuum, then maybe it's worth the money, but on Earth, where Apple is dominating the Portable Multifunction Device landscape, iTunes is offered free whether you're an iPod owner or not. Seems like Sony is more interested in making a couple of extra bucks then building customer loyalty and goodwill...