There are two new devices coming out in the (relatively) near future that have caught my eye. Both of these represent a shift toward delivering an experience, on-the-go, that rivals the ease and fullness of what you have at home. These products, to me, signal an exciting new era in which the functionality of your portable devices is held to the same standard as you expect in the comfort of home.
Device #1: The Next Generation Portable from Sony
This thing is a monster. As in “aaaaah monstaaar!!” Let’s go down the list: Dual analog sticks (real, honest to goodness sticks), quad core processor (ARM, so low power draw), front and read cameras, OLED touchscreen, REAR touchscreen (seriously), GPS, Wi-Fi, 3G (if you like), compass, motion sensors (not a big fan of games that use these personally)… DUDE. The games you’ll play on it will be Metal Gear Solid, Uncharted, Call of Duty, Wipeout… the big guns. And not some gimped version where you touch the screen for everything, or tilt to steer, or play your shooters “on rails”; you have 2 sticks now, just like your PS3 controller at home. Meaning you’ll control the camera and you’ll have the same familiar button scheme as you do on your couch. Real gaming, for people who know games and have been scoffing this whole time at the idea of portable “gaming” on the iOS devices. It was half-baked. It just wasn’t “there” yet. Well here it is. It’s a PS3 you can stick in your backpack. Wow.
Me personally, I don’t know if I’ll be in a huge rush to get one when it comes out. Rarely, if ever, do I game on the go. Once and a while I dabble in some Angry Birds or Doodle Jump, you know, the crème de la crème of the bite-size gaming world. This is mostly due to the fact that I commute to work by myself, by car. But for anyone who rides a train, a bus, a subway, or maybe even carpoolers, here is the way to spend your commute. Sweet Jeebus. If I were any of those people, I would be all-the-hell over this Sony NGP thingie. Sticks man, two sticks. See:
Who knows, maybe they’ll even find some way to rope in the only-at-home gamers like me, maybe via minigames on the NGP that are tied to your progress in a so-called “AAA” title on the PS3. For example, maybe I’m playing Mass Effect 2 on the PS3, and instead of doing all my planetary mining activities on the big screen, maybe I pick up the NGP and go out to the backyard, for some relaxing mining while I sip a cool beverage and enjoy the sun. Or maybe, taking that a step further, a friend who’s over at my house hanging out picks up the NGP and starts doing some mining on the NGP WHILE I’m playing Mass Effect on the PS3. Maybe what’s happeneing on the NGP affects the game action on the PS3 in real time, and vice versa. And wildest of all, just maybe, for games that are less demanding, I could play matches against my friends who have NGPs across town who I riding the bus, while I sit at home on the PS3. Live cross-platform gaming is theoretically possible with the horsepower that the NGP is packing. I hope Sony pushes this direction, because it’d be, well, awesome.
Device #2: The Motorola Atrix 4G
Yo, dawg, I heard that you like keyboards and LCDs, so I put a LAPTOP inside your SMARTPHONE. Yeah, that pretty much says it. The Atrix is a dual core smartphone, with a dock that has a laptop-sized keyboard and a laptop-sized LCD. You plug it in, and your smartphone is now a laptop. This is pure genius for anyone who hates trying to type on a smartphone (read:everyone). Writers on the go, business professionals, students, whatever. Even just using the big screen to watch hulu, or surf your favorite sites.
The Atrix is like seeing a glimpse of the future. Things are going to get to the point where the computing power inside our pockets overtakes notebooks, and having both will just be redundant. Convergence. All we really need then is a portable keyboard and larger screen. Which is what we’ve got here. I think the form factor will continue to evolve, with foldable displays when that becomes practical, pico-projectors for presentations or gaming on the go, and whatever input paradigm can eventually overtake the keyboard. Maybe speech recognition? I’m pretty sure Google is hard at work making computers understand our voices better…
Honorable mention: the Playstation Phone
It’s formally called the “Xperia Play” (dumb name!) but let’s just call it what it really is; the first-gen Playstation phone. When we put it next to the monstrosity that is the Sony NGP, it looks like a bit of a weakling in comparison, but it’s cool that this puppy is here. Ever since the original first-gen iPhone came out in 2007, I’ve been wishing that someone would make a case for it that had a d-pad and buttons for game playing. There has been one company which teased such prototypes for forever, but they are finally just making it to market now (ugh) and I bet the support for the accessory is probably low from game-makers, which cripples it at birth. So a phone with a native d-pad and buttons! It’s finally here. An idea 4 years too late, but better late than never I suppose. You won’t be playing the latest Gears of War on this hardware like you WILL on the NGP, but you could get your SNES Mario emulator rocking with this sucker like Engadget in the pic above, and I bet it’ll be a pretty sweet little game machine, albeit outclassed by it’s own Sony brethren. However, you could legitimately argue this is the best gaming experience that a PHONE has to offer, since the NGP is technically not a telephone (helloooo Skype!).