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Analyst: Sony-Ericsson's Android Bid Is Late

Sony Ericsson's Android debut, the Xperia X10, offers an impressive multimedia experience, but at least one mobile analyst is concerned that its delayed release will hurt its chances for success. The X10 is slated to be released in the first quarter of 2010, according to Sony Ericsson.

The X10 runs on Android 1.6, and is the first in a family set to deliver "UX," a user experience focused on entertainment, that also provides streamlined media and communications. The 3G handset has a 4-inch touchscreen, 8-megapixel camera, Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth and a 8GB microSD card, powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 1GHz processor.

While the X10 has some stand-out features, one analyst said the lack of commitments by carriers in the U.S., will hurt Sony Ericcson, which desperately needs a hit in the smartphone sector.

"The company has fallen badly behind market leaders in nearly every category, and the X10's focus on music is unique to Android while fitting nicely with Sony Ericsson's brand. However, our positive stance is tempered by the release date. Announcing a product right before the holidays that will not be available until sometime in the first quarter of next year means that the company is effectively writing off any chances of garnering sales today," writes Avi Greengart, analyst at Current Analysis, in a research note.

The X10 UX interface offers more than just tiled homepages, said Greengart, and takes the Android OS in a new direction. "Like HTC's Sense, UX is a full overlay on top of Android and includes a unified view of your communications and social network data with 'Timescape'," he said.

"However, unlike any Android phone, Sony Ericsson has also focused extensively on media playback with Mediascape. Android's stock music playback app has just basic functionality and lacks pizzazz; Android shells from HTC, Motorola, and Samsung are little better. Sony Ericsson's brand has been closely associated with multimedia, and the X10's hardware and software should mesh with customer expectations nicely."

If the X10 does come to the U.S. it will be on either T-Mobile or AT&T, the 3G networks operating here. Sony Ericsson plans to ship the X10 in two versions: an HSPA 1700/2100 version for T-Mobile and an 850/1900/2100 version for AT&T, according to Greengart.

Still, with no U.S. carriers on board yet and post-Q4 launch, it remains to be seen if the X10 can give Sony Ericsson the reboot it needs in the smartphone sector.

Sony Ericsson needs a more diverse portfolio of smartphones both to compete with Nokia, Apple, and HTC in Europe and to compete in the U.S. above entry-level handsets, said Greengart.

Spread too thin?

Additionally, the company faces the risk of spreading its resources too thin by developing for three operating systems.

"Rather than focusing on building a single strong competitor, Sony Ericsson is splintering its focus, with separate development efforts on Symbian, Windows Mobile, and Android," said Greengart. "This is not a strategy that is likely to be successful; smartphones today must be differentiated, and that requires focused effort."

If the X10 does become available in 2010, it will enter an increasingly competitive landscape. In addition to the iPhone 3GS and Palm's Pre and Pixi, recent Android releases include the Motorola Cliq, HTC Hero, Motorola Droid and Droid Eris by HTC.