Too lit­tle, too late?

Trou­bled ven­dor is plot­ting a come­back

Finweek English Edition - - Communication & Technology - SI­MON DIN­GLE si­mond@fin­week.co.za

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.

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