Will a New President Save Sony Ericsson From Oblivion?
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Sony announced yesterday that it has hired Bert Nordberg to head up the company's Sony Ericsson division. According to Nordberg, he plans to revamp the company's lineup of phones to compete more effectively in the market.
"We need to improve the product design and development processes and we need a different product portfolio to reflect what customers are asking for," Nordberg told The New York Times in an interview. "And we definitely need to strengthen our offering in the mobile Internet segment."
That sounds like an awfully tall order. Sony Ericsson has been the also-ran in the smartphone space for quite a long time. It has tried on numerous occasions to compete in the market by bringing its Walkman technology and a few other features to its phones. But for the most part, it has been unsuccessful in delivering the kind of experience consumers really want.
What makes us think that Nordberg suddenly has the vision to turn things around? The smartphone space is incredibly complex. It's no longer a market where companies can release new phones, get special placement and promotions in stores, and enjoy a nice profit for a couple months. Today, the market is dominated by phones that provide touchscreens, app stores, and robust enterprise software that can appeal to both the consumer and the company employee.
For the most part, Sony Ericsson's phones are underpowered, have few compelling features, and are in no way business-friendly. Worst of all, Sony Ericsson doesn't have the kind of app store companies like Google, RIM, and especially, Apple, are providing.
So as we look forward to what Nordberg and Sony Ericsson need to do, it's evident that the company needs a complete overhaul in its strategy. First off, it needs new touchscreen software. Sony Ericsson phones look obsolete next to the iPhone, the Palm Pre, and the myTouch 3G. Its competitors' software is easy to maneuver around, it's readily accessible, and it has all many of the features both consumers and enterprise users really want.
Sony Ericsson also needs an app store to compete on the same level with Apple's. Although the chances of the company getting an app store to offer as many applications as Apple's (over 65,000 at last count) is doubtful, it needs to try.
Beyond the app store, Sony Ericsson needs to make a more concerted effort to improve its phones' designs. Most Sony Ericsson phones look like they're trapped in the past. They don't boast the features, nor the look that will appeal to users. The company needs to bring on high-quality touchscreens. It needs to bring on the slide-out keyboard. Most importantly, Sony Ericsson needs to bring on the vision. It doesn't have one. It's floundering. And it needs to right the ship soon before it's too late.
So it seems Nordberg has some work cut out for him. He needs to totally revamp a company's lineup of smartphones in the face of the strongest, most capable competitor he has ever faced. Can he do it? At this point, it's anyone's guess. But one thing is certain: if Sony Ericsson wants to match Apple, it needs to make some serious changes. And soon.
Don Reisinger is a technology columnist whose work has included popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move on Twitter at @donreisinger.