Sony Ericsson to sell its first Windows Mobile phone

Device will have a touch screen, a slide-out keyboard and a camera

Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB will begin selling its first phone using Windows Mobile software this year, Microsoft Corp. announced today, just ahead of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

Until now, Sony Ericsson has primarily used the Symbian operating system to power its smart phones. Its Windows Mobile phone will have a touch screen with a slide-out keyboard and a camera, said Brian Arbogast, vice president of mobile services at Microsoft.

While Apple Inc.'s iPhone has spurred wider interest in touch-screen phones, Sony Ericsson has been selling touch-screen phones for years. Sony Ericsson uses the UIQ user interface on its Symbian phones. UIQ competes with Series 60, the user interface that Nokia Corp. developed to run on its Symbian phones.

Sony Ericsson joins High Tech Computer Corp., Motorola Inc., Palm Inc., Samsung Electronics Co. and companies selling phones that use Windows Mobile.

Microsoft said that the Sony Ericsson device should be available to end users this year and that examples of it will be on display at the conference in Barcelona. Sony Ericsson was not available to offer more details. It has scheduled a press conference call Monday to discuss the announcement.

"We're excited about them bringing their entertainment expertise and experience and brand to a device that has all the benefits of Windows Mobile," Arbogast said.

Sony Ericsson will likely continue to sell Symbian phones in addition to the Windows Mobile handset, a common practice among mobile-phone developers. For example, Motorola sells Windows Mobile, Symbian and Linux phones, while Palm sells Windows Mobile phones as well as handsets that use its own operating system.

Nokia, the No. 1 handset maker in the world, does not make Windows Mobile phones, but it uses Linux to power handheld computers and also widely uses Symbian.

The Sony Ericsson phones could help Microsoft further a recent effort to position Windows Mobile phones, which are primarily seen as tools for business users and attractive to consumers. Sony makes phones with its Walkman music players and Cyber-shot cameras, featuring brands that are well-known to consumers.

Rumors circulated late last year that the handset maker had begun manufacturing a Windows Mobile phone that would ship in the second half of this year. At the time, Sony Ericsson would not confirm the plans.

Windows Mobile is in a distant second place behind Symbian in market share among mobile operating systems. In the fourth quarter of 2007, Symbian was used in 65% of smart phones sold worldwide, according to recent research from Canalys.com. Microsoft had 12% of phones sold, followed by Research In Motion Ltd., with 11%.

The Mobile World Congress, formerly called 3GSM, starts Monday in Barcelona.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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