Sony Ericsson rethinks, remodels

Monday morning in Barcelona. The skies are blue, the mobile industry jargon impenetrable as always.

Monday morning in Barcelona. The skies are blue, the mobile industry jargon impenetrable as always. My thoughts turn to last night's Sony Ericsson event, partially for the mild cava hangover, and partially for the company's new strategy, which it announced to a fair level of fanfare.

No prizes for guessing the impetus – the economy is not in a pleasant state, and SE needs to rethink its plans, we were informed by two bouncy executives on stage. The new strategy has three objectives, apparently: secure the customer base (I don't think they were referring to their annoying adherence to Sony-specific memory formats, but still...); to find new revenue opportunities; and to “sustain brand positioning”.

Sony Ericsson, said one bouncy executive, is “a love brand” - “yes, a true love brand”, said the other (oh get a room). “We make people smile!” And snort, and sigh. Then a video, starring a plethora of anger-generating hipsters and set to music that was an outrageous ripoff of a certain Nirvana track I can't name in a family publication. Cue the announcement of a handset they'd already announced, and the news that the PlayNow media subscription service would now offer movies for the small of screen.

But then came the kicker. Sony Ericsson will now “unite” its disparate music- and video-centric brands into all-encompassing devices that currently fall under the project name of “Idou” (ah, that bromance was leading somewhere after all). Specifically, a Series 60-based handset that will appear in the second half of this year, incorporating an absurd 12.1 megapixel camera and a 16:9 3.5-inch widescreen, and looking an awful lot like an iPhone-alike.

The Walkman and Cybershot brandings won't be abandoned – just relegated to the “emerging and lower part of the market”.

So, where does this leave us? I think it's fair to say that Sony Ericsson's portfolio was too thinly spread, certainly for current times, and it needed to contract. This will be that announcement. It seems SE is betting quite a lot on this Idou handset, but its early announcement is reminiscent of the Xperia fiasco, where the all-in-one business handset got shown off way too early, leaving the media and public bored and cynical by the time it actually arrived. Let's hope the company isn't making that mistake again.

Sony Ericsson is by no means the most precariously-placed manufacturer on the mobile scene, but it's far from the strongest. I hope Idou works out – the company needs it.


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