'

Sony Ericsson: Xperia not tied to Windows Mobile

The manufacturer hints that non-Windows Mobile handsets may in future appear under the Xperia brand, but says it is satisfied with Windows Mobile for now

Sony Ericsson is not tying its Xperia premium handset brand to Windows Mobile despite being satisfied with the platform, the product manager for the first Xperia phone has said.

On Wednesday, Magnus Andersson, who has headed up development of the X1 Windows Mobile 6.1 phone, said the lack of an explicit link with Microsoft's mobile operating system was consistent with Sony Ericsson's wider strategy.

"With anything we do from Sony Ericsson, the platform or technology itself doesn't make it a brand," Andersson told ZDNet.co.uk. "The Xperia brand is our new premium brand [where we] want to give something extra. That doesn't say it's typically a Windows Mobile [phone] — it's not equivalent to 'Windows Mobile from Sony Ericsson'."

The Xperia X1 is Sony Ericsson's first foray into Windows Mobile territory. Previous smartphones from the manufacturer have used the UIQ platform. UIQ is currently in the process of being merged into the forthcoming, unnamed open-source successor to Symbian, the operating system upon which UIQ has always been based. The other big forthcoming open-source mobile platform is Google's Android, but Andersson refused to predict whether a future Xperia phone might use Symbian, Android or some other similar system.

The X1 will have a touchscreen, as well as a slide-out keyboard. Sony Ericsson's user interface (UI) for the device is based on the concept of nine panels, each of which takes the user to some specific type of functionality within the phone.

Asked about the experience of bolting Sony Ericsson's own UI on top of the Windows Mobile 6.1 UI — a method that has led to some jarring user experiences when implemented by HTC in the Touch series or Samsung in the Omnia — Andersson said there was "value" in people's familiarity with the Windows Mobile interface.

"A lot of people are used to using [the Windows Mobile UI] and that has a value," said Andersson. "What we've tried to do is add what we call the Sony Ericsson DNA — a little bit of fun, if you like — and we have done so. You might see [inconsistencies] as well. In the panel interface, we have put applications and experiences on top because we know people want to have easy access to things [but], below the surface, if we did not like the Windows operating system, we would have built the device on some other platform."

Another issue that has been common to many Windows Mobile handsets, particularly of the touchscreen variety, has been poor battery life. Andersson said heavy usage would make it advisable to recharge the handset daily, but stressed that Sony Ericsson had put a lot of effort into creating a high-capacity battery for the X1.

"The battery concern was of course one of the highest rated concerns," Andersson said. "We actually started the development of a 1500mAh battery, just with the purpose of being out there with the strongest battery in the industry. Internally we gave this project a name: Hercules. It is called the BST41 battery, but we refer to it as a Hercules battery."

The Xperia X1 will go on sale in the UK on 30 September. Pricing has not yet been announced. The product will be key for Sony Ericsson, which observers have noted has not had a new type of handset in its portfolio for some time, relying rather on music- or imaging-focused phones. The company barely broke even in the second quarter of this year and subsequently announced thousands of job cuts.