Many industry commentators feel that Sony has made poor choices over the past decade in many areas. The company creature a culture with the Walkman and then failed to jump onto the MP3 train by trying to use its own format for digital music. Apple and the iPod killed the market overnight. Sony had tried other proprietary formats such as the Mini Disc and again this failed to take off. Sony owned gaming with the original Playstation and the Playstation 2, but the Playstation 3 was initially overtaken by the Nintendo Wii and latterly by the Xbox 360.
The PSP has fallen short of the successes of Nintendo and now smartphones and even its dominance in TVs has been eroded. Sony failed to continue promising starts in so many areas, but in my opinion the Clie was ‘the’ lost opportunity to beat them all. At the time, it caused barely a blip because the PDA market was a niche area that only a minority of people entered, but it grew and has evolved into the smartphone market which is the driver for almost all innovation today.
Palm OS was plodding along and Sony dragged every other PDA maker forward just like Apple did when the iPhone was announced. Sony was way ahead of its time, years ahead, and gave us high resolution screens, twistable form factors, cameras and designs that stand up well today. Sony, and the Clie, was king of the PDA hill for a while in my book and to jump out of the market was potentially the biggest mistake it has made to date. Sony Ericsson was there to pick up the mantle when the PDA market dried up, but the smartphones that have arrived are extremely good, but not a huge jump above the rest of the Android pack.
Imagine Sony launching a Clie smartphone at the same time as Palm released the Treo 600. It would have been well ahead of the competition, of that I have no doubt, and just maybe it would have given Sony a Walkman moment once again. Today, we could be talking about how Sony re-invented the mobile phone and not Apple. Sony could have leveraged all of its various interests to make the user experience more complete and locked in their users. Gaming, music, film, TVs and the rest. All of that could have worked with a Sony smartphone, but alas it never happened. Such a shame.