Sony Ericsson rips out new Android, Symbian phones

BARCEOLONA, Spain--On the eve of the Mobile World Congress trade show here, Sony Ericsson hoped to set the tone of 2010 with the release of a trio of devices the company heralded as "a taste of a very exciting future," according to CEO Bert Nordberg.

Lennard Hoornik Sony EricsosnThe company showed off two miniature iterations of its Android-powered Xperia X10--one with a keyboard and one without--as well as a keyboard-equipped version of its previously released, Symbian S60-powered Vivaz gadget. The devices are slated to go on sale "globally" in the first half of this year, though Lennard Hoornik, the company's head of marketing, cautioned that a U.S. debut hinged on carrier support and that Sony Ericsson had no announcements to make in that regard.

Sony Ericsson said the new phones (which, together with the previously announced Vivaz and X10, were dubbed by the company as the "fabulous five"--a label executives managed to deliver with a straight face) represent the company's effort to focus on a clean and consistent design and user interface. Although company executives sought to couch the new products in marketing babble like "human curvature inspired" and "precision by tension," the devices essentially reflect Sony Ericsson's attempts to set itself apart from the competition with slab-style phones with rounded edged and a user interface dominated by the company's previously announced Timescape messaging aggregation feature.

"We want to make a clean user interface," noted Rikko Sakaguchi, chief creation officer of Sony Ericsson. Sakaguchi also said Sony Ericsson wants to "make people smile," a vague goal repeatedly echoed by the rest of the company's executives during the company's hour-long press conference.

Sony Ericsson X10 mini proWhen stripped of the fluff during a question-and-answer session with the nearly 500 members of the press, company representatives did provide a few new insights into Sony Ericsson's strategy and goals. Nordberg described Goolge's Nexus One effort as "interesting," but said Sony Ericsson currently does not have plans to participate in Google's straight-to-consumer branding effort. Google earlier this year unveiled a phone built by HTC but carrying only the Google brand, along with a Web store to sell the gadget. Motorola has said it will also sell Google-branded products through the store.

"We only sell phones with our brand," Nordberg said. However, he hedged the company's position a bit with an addendum about Google's Web store: "I wouldn't rule it out."

As for Sony Ericsson's wider smartphone strategy, the company said it plans to continue to support the Android, Windows Mobile and Symbian platforms--a position notable in light of larger firms like Nokia and Motorola that support a narrower range of smartphone platforms. However, Nordberg said Sony Ericsson is hedging its bets by supporting the various platforms, adding: "I don't think we can expect fewer, but more operating systems."

For more:
- see these pictures and specs
- see these two releases

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