Sony Ericsson spent almost the entire second half of 2009 teasing gadget fanatics with its Rachael UI, the custom skin which would sit atop Google Android on its phones. Using Timescape and Mediascape functions, its aim was to make a mockery of MotoBLUR and harangue HTC Sense into submission.
Fast forward to March 2010, and the first phone to feature the Rachael UI (now called UX) the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10, is still languishing on the mobile makers shelves having been unveiled in December last year.
This follows a slew of cells unveiled at Mobile World Congress, the X10 Mini among them, which also feature UX. So what’s with the wait? And is it indicative of how Sony Ericsson has lost the plot in the past year?
At the time of writing, Sony Ericsson had not responded to our requests for comment, but Chris Hazelton, Research Director for Mobile and Wireless at The 451 Group says the X10 debacle points to a wider malaise within the manufacturer.
“This is the second Xperia device to be delayed, which means that when the device does reach the market, like the Xperia X1, its sales will suffer as it will miss some of the market interest it received when it was first announced.”
Hazelton is referring to the much-hyped X1 Windows Mobile phone, which failed to set the world alight back in 2008. He also thinks that Sony Ericsson’s failure to give itself completely to Android and develop phones at the cutting edge of Google’s tech will cost it dear.
“Sony Ericsson has been put in a difficult spot in terms of OS, it lost its primary smartphone OS, UIQ, when Nokia acquired the rest of Symbian in mid 2008. At that point it should have committed to another smartphone OS. Instead it focused on feature phones as the smartphone market exploded,” he says.
“Sony Ericsson once made some of the best smartphones, particularly its P series or Powerhouse smartphones. It has lost its way as it now lacks focus using Symbian S60 devices, Windows Mobile 6.5, and now Android 1.6. It is leveraging multiple OSs to cater to different geographic regions, but instead it should focus on one platform and offer the best unrestricted user experience.”
To put this in context, Windows Mobile 6.5 is on its way out as Windows Phone 7 Series takes a bow and phones such as the HTC Legend, HTC Desire and Google Nexus One already utilise Android 2.1.
“If [the X10] came out in late 2009 it would have been one of a few Android devices, but with the multiple Android announcements at Mobile World Congress in February 2010, Android has gone from unique selling point to almost a “me to” OS,” says Hazelton. “Launching with 1.6 is a mistake, even though Sony Ericsson will offer an upgrade to 2.1 down the road, the lack of clarity here only adds to the problem.”
In order to survive at the smartphone top table, Sony Ericsson needs to kick the X10 out of the door immediately. In the six months since it formal announcement, it’s gone from must-have mobile to a byword for the company’s procrastination. There’s no denying it’s a great slab of cellular joy. But that won’t be enough to save it as Apple limbers up for the release of iPhone 4.0 and Android reaches even greater heights.