Too little, too late?
Troubled vendor is plotting a comeback
TROUBLED SWEDISH mobile handset vendor Sony Ericsson has announced a new range of cellphones and services it will launch this year in an attempt to get the company back on track. It reported a net loss of US$385,9m (around R3bn) for first quarter 2009 and announced 2 000 resulting job cuts.
Sony Ericsson is pinning its hopes for a comeback on its new range of mobile phones and services. It has a new naming scheme for its products and has done away with the Walkman and Cybershot brands it previously used to describe mobile phone devices with extra media functionality.
It says its new Satio, Aino and Yari devices will leapfrog the rest of the industry in terms of features and align the devices more closely with other Sony products, such as the PlayStation 3. For example, The Aino allows users to remotely control their PlayStation 3 devices and access content, including games, over local networks or the Internet.
Its new Yari includes gesture gaming, allowing users to play games by using the phone as, for example, a virtual tennis racquet or golf club – similarly to the Nintendo Wii style of gaming.
The Satio device is focused on communications, while the Aino is focused on media playback and features an interface similar to the Sony PSP handheld gaming console. Sony Ericsson also announced Naite – a phone made from recycled plastic – as part of its Greenheart design strategy.
While the new devices have strong feature differentiators and boast some of the most advanced hardware specifications available, the question is whether or not Sony Ericsson is able to back those up with service availability in South Africa. Cellphones in themselves are secondary to services, as Apple has proven with its App Store that offers millions of applications for the iPhone and is available in SA. Sony Ericsson’s biggest competitor – Nokia – also has a working application and content store available in SA, along with a digital music store and other services. Sony Ericsson has none of those yet. But it did unveil a service called PlayNow, which is its answer to the likes of App Store and Nokia’s Ovi Store. Sonja Shear, head of marketing at Sony Ericsson South Africa, says PlayNow is expected to launch here in fourth quarter 2009.