Sony Ericsson plans LTE devices, crows of Verizon deal

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BARCELONA, Spain--Sony Ericsson plans on releasing LTE devices in the near future, according to a senior company executive.

The executive, Sony Ericsson CTO Jan Uddenfeldt, would not commit to a specific timeframe for releasing a commercial LTE device, but said it will be "pretty soon." He pointed to an announcement Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) made earlier this week at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, Spain, that it had partnered with Sony Ericsson and ST-Ericsson to showcase TD-LTE voice and video services for China Mobile. The demonstration was made using a prototype LTE handset, but Uddenfeldt said that "we are advanced in our product development."

In a wide-ranging interview with FierceWireless, Uddenfeldt, who became CTO in August, discussed Sony Ericsson's renewed focus on the U.S. market, its deal with Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) for the Xperia Play smartphone and its choice of Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android platform over Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone 7, among other topics.

All four of Sony Ericsson's recently announced Android phones runs on the latest version of Android, 2.3 or Gingerbread, and Uddenfeldt said that the company learned the lesson of having older versions of Android on its last wave of Xperia phones, but that the company plans on staying on the cutting edge of software versions. "A year ago, the awareness of the importance of being on the latest Android release wasn't in the company," Uddenfeldt said.

Uddenfeldt said Sony Ericsson has been working with CDMA technology with KDDI in Japan for many years, but the partnership with Verizon is Sony Ericsson's first. He said that Sony Ericsson worked very closely with Google on the gaming aspects of the Xperia Play and on Gingerbread, and that because of Google's close relationship with Verizon aided Sony Ericsson in striking a deal with Verizon. Uddenfeldt also clarified that the Xperia Play is not exclusive to Verizon, and that AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), for instance, could launch the phone.  

Sony Ericsson will also focus much more on the U.S. market that it has in the past, Uddenfeldt said. He said the company realizes the U.S. is the leading smartphone market and will expand its research and development facilities in Silicon Valley. He also said Sony Ericsson will move Rikko Sakaguchi, its chief creative officer, to the United States.

In other news, Uddenfeldt said that tablets are a very important part of the market, and that Sony Ericsson is holding discussions with Sony on any potential tablet products. He said the tablet would be an Android tablet, and that currently Sony Ericsson has no plans to release Windows Phone 7 devices. "We haven't said 'no' to Windows, he said. "On the other hand, we have not released any new windows products for the last nine months or 12 months. It's still a possibility that we could, but we don't see any real reason for it because Android is growing so dramatically, and it has an attractiveness when it comes to the user-friendliness and market growth, and the carriers are loving it. But we don't close our eyes on other things."  

Uddenfeldt also clarified that when the Xperia Play launches it will come with five to 10 pre-loaded games and that there will be 50 or 60 titles in the Android Market optimized for the smartphone that are separate from the titles that Sony will put into its PlayStation Suite later this year.

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