BARCELONA, Spain-At a press conference on the eve of the Mobile World Congress, Sony Ericsson executives Steve Walker and Lennard Hoornik unveiled a new video service; two sophisticated handsets, including a 12-megapixel touch-screen camera phone code-named Idou; and, perhaps most significantly, a new strategy called "Entertainment Unlimited," centered around the concept of unlimited entertainment offerings.
While the Idou-which Sony said will have a different name whenever it comes to market (which could be as far off as 2010)-served more to excite the audience than prepare them for an immediate product launch, the company's other handset, the W995 Walkman, was displayed in more detail.
However, because the phone-which comes with a 2.6-inch screen, a full Web browser, Google Maps, Wi-Fi, a choice of three colors, and an 8-megapixel camera with features such as face detection and an image stabilizer-supports 900/2,100MHz 3G bands, which are not supported in the United States, it won't be coming to American shores.
The Idou, with its Xenon flash, absurdly high-megapixel camera and 16:9 3.5-inch widescreen display, was a reassurance that Sony Ericsson is still capable of making a flashy product. When released, the phone will run on what will develop into the Symbian Foundation operating system, a yet-to-be-released open-source version of the Symbian operating system. But it also served as an example of the company's new direction, as exemplified by Walker, Sony Ericsson's head of product marketing.
Sony Ericsson's new strategy, Entertainment Unlimited, will unite the company's disparate television, PC and mobile phone departments in an effort to provide customers with a full-blooded, cross-platform entertainment experience. The Idou is the first product result of the new strategy, which aims to eliminate the boundary between communication and entertainment.
Another part of Sony Ericsson's strategy centers on MediaGo, which allows users to transfer media such as movies (the W995 can play full-length films), music and photos between handsets and PCs-an expansion of the company's PlayNow Music download service, currently available in eight countries. Walker, who labeled Sony Ericsson as "truly the entertainment and communication brand," said the service will be expanded to double the number of countries. U.S. wireless carriers currently block the service, which allows users to download DRM-free unlimited music on a subscription basis.
Whether or not Sony Ericsson's new strategy will save the company, devastated by the recession (the company lost $248 million in the fourth quarter of 2008) and wounded by recent uninspiring handset designs, is up for debate, although press conference attendees couldn't get close enough to the Idou, kept securely locked in a Plexiglas box. "Everything that we have done to date has brought us to this point," Hoornik said. "We are now ready to unveil the next chapter in the evolution of the company."