Sony Ericsson to pick sides in mobile OS war

It looks like Sony Ericsson is about to pick sides in the mobile operating systems war. The company is getting ready to announce a new strategy, new CEO Bert Nordberg said during a conference call.

The troubled mobile-phone manufacturer is currently shipping smartphones based on Windows Mobile and Symbian. It has also stated that it will deliver phones based on Android together with Google, but hasn't announced any details yet.

However, the company seems to question if it can continue to support all three platforms in the future. The company will announce a new strategy in the next two quarters, according to Nordberg.

"What I read into that is that they are going to drop something," said Carolina Milanesi, research director at Gartner.

Google's Android looks set to become the most important platform for Sony Ericsson, just as it has for Motorola.

"It would seem strange if Sony Ericsson came out saying that they're doing Android, and then in the next two quarters came back and said we are not going to do Android any more," said Milanesi.

The big challenge for Sony Ericsson will be to catch up with competition. HTC, Samsung, Motorola, LG and Acer have already started shipping or announced Android devices.

A ray of light for Sony Ericsson is that channel partners who have started to get details on its Android phone say it looks encouraging, according to Ben Wood, analyst at CCS Insight.

"What you'll see is Nordberg trying to get some momentum around the Android proposition to get some mind share back to the Sony Ericsson brand, because that's what it needs," said Wood, who points to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February as a very important coming-out party.

The remaining question is which platform will be the odd man out when Sony Ericsson decides on its future course.

Wood is predicting that Windows Mobile will be the first casualty.

"It's very apparent that Windows Mobile at the moment is behind everybody else, and also from a business model perspective it's the last of the operating systems that's demanding a licensing fee," said Wood.

Milanesi on the other hand thinks that Symbian will be the one to go.

"Symbian and Android are focusing on the same target audience," said Milanesi.

If Sony Ericsson decides to continue to push Symbian it will have a hard time differentiating its products from Nokia's, the platform's main backer, according to Milanesi.

Also, Symbian is a platform that doesn't seem capable of competing with the offerings from Apple, HTC and Motorola with Android, according to Wood.

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