Flint steps down - what next for Sony Ericsson

This is a big moment for Sony Ericsson. Miles Flint has shaped and grown it in his four years there and has been a key architect of the company's current success. He is best known for the brave move to use the Walkman brand on phones. Sony was - we understand - initially reluctant but success with this led the two companies to go further and launch the Cybershot family, which has been a big hit.  We expect further use of key Sony brands by Sony Ericsson including Bravia, PSP and possibly Vaio in the future.

With that move Sony Ericsson started the "lead experience" trend which has now been copied by other vendors. However, Sony Ericsson still leads it, having managed to push the Walkman brand a long way down its portfolio without undermining the brand values.

Using Walkman was an inspired decision. But we think Miles Flint's bigger achievement was taking Sony Ericsson from being a sub-scale vendor, over-dependent on a few hit models (T68, T610, P900), to a fuller scale maintaining a broad portfolio, achieving greater reach, retaining an aspirational brand and holding its own in the design/style area. Sony Ericsson has gone from being the Mazda of the mobile phone world to the BMW.

Flint has expanded the portfolio progressively down towards the EUR50 price point, building a presence in high-growth emerging markets. This has brought much higher volumes and market share gains, but the major success has been to do this without trashing margins. Sony Ericsson has overtaken LG for fourth place and could yet overtake Motorola for third place.

So we anticipate that his replacement, Hideki Komiyama, currently chairman of Sony's US operations and EVP of electronics marketing and sales, will leave many things in place.

Areas where he will face challenges or where his Sony background will be of great value include:

  • responding to the iPhone. We are sure that Sony Ericsson is already on the case and its UIQ software means it is well placed to take big strides with the user interface of its phones
  • expanding in the US market, although in the current financial climate it may not be right to be over-focused on this
  • extending the top end of the  range to compete more fully with Nokia's N-Series working with Sony and Ericsson to provide more of a vision for how consumers will use digital media across various services and consumer electronics categories. The three companies have quietly been building stronger links for some time, and we hope to see bolder moves from this soon
  • working out whether or how to move into Internet services. Sony Ericsson is widely expected to open a music store. Should it launch an Ovi style portal‾ Should it tie phones in with Sony's new "Home" service‾
  • continuing to scale the company to achieve a sustainable number three position.

Martin Garner, Director of Wireless Intelligence

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