Sony Ericsson Testing Android, Pessimistic

With recent discussion from Sony Ericsson that their Xperia brand wasn’t tied to Windows Mobile, Android enthusiasts were encouraged that the company could have an Android handset launching sooner rather than later. Looks like we spoke (or thought) too quickly.

Lets get a few of the facts straight:

  • Sony Ericsson is NOT a member of the Open Handset Alliance
  • Sony Ericsson IS testing Android
  • Sony Ericsson is doing so with PROTOTYPE devices

That’s a mixed bag but you would THINK, based on their testing, that they at least they hoped they could make Android work. And they probably can… but not any time soon:

“[But] to go with mass production and working with prototypes are two different things,” he explained. “If you want to give every service away to Google, then Android is the perfect solution.”

That’s Mats Lindoff speaking, Sony Ericsson’s chief technology officer, from a Sony Ericsson media event in Copenhagen (via VNUnet). Sony Ericsson clearly has an issue with the openness of Android overshadowing the bundled services they provide, for example music and media on their Walkman line.

The interesting thing to note here is that Google already said that Android is open source and carriers/manufacturers are free to customize it however they see fit. So is Sony Ericsson working to lock down the capabilities of Android as T-Mobile did with VoIP on the G1? Are the looking to take the flexibility of Android and close it for use only with their own applications?

Sony Ericsson’s intentions are unclear, but their first ever use of Windows Mobile on the Xperia was made to move further into the American market. They’ve said they want to focus on both consumer and business type customers… so why not adopt Android?

This latest development with Sony Ericsson illustrates the struggle between past, present and future of mobile technology quite brilliantly.

  • The past is the walled garden
  • The present is hybrid openness such as the G1 which adopts Android but has a few limitations
  • The future is complete openness where software is of much greater focus

Sony Ericsson is still clinging to the hope that they can maintain those “old” revenue streams. If they released an Android based handset, couldn’t it cannobolize sales of their own handsets? Perhaps, but it could also devour sales from competing companies.

Didn’t these guys learn with the devaluation of the Walkman brand? You are looking at the next step in the evolution of phones yet you choose to keep your camp right under the volcanoid that will soon make your current system a fossil.

They don’t have to abandon their current initiatives… they just need to modernize it. Why not work on creating the best applications/offerings in conjunction with their own devices that are also usable with Android, the iPhone and/or other devices?

Nobody can be sure what Sony Ericsson has planned. But, if they are waiting on Android because they are busy “customizing” Android to effectively lock it down as far as they can – they’re making a huge mistake. Locking down Android is counterintuitive… the power and capabilities of Android are built in… why spend time and money to make sure consumers CAN’T do what they want to?

Perhaps it means more immediate revenue. But immediate is short-term and they’re going to have to make the shift towards a more open environment at some point – it’s inevitable. So what way will it be, SE? Ever heard of first mover advantage?

Sony Ericsson and Motorola are two powerhouse mobile manufacturers who have been struggling lately. Android offers the perfect opportunity to reinvigorate they’re product line… so what are they waiting for? Lets hope its not extinction.

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