Xperia X1 mobile phone faces stiff competition from iPhone, BlackBerry

Consumers may be swept off their feet by Sony Ericsson’s newly-announced Xperia line of phones starting with XP1.

But businesses will be harder to sell on the phone’s usefulness, say analysts.

Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications Inc. unveiled the first new product line in North America in two years at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Sunday.

Ericsson’s marketing department is positioning the device as a challenger to both the consumer-aimed Apple iPhone and Waterloo, Ont. Research in Motion’s (RIM) enterprise-oriented Blackberry.

“It really brings together work and play,” said Najmi Jarwala, president, North America for Sony Ericsson in a Web cast. “This is a device that will be useful for enterprise consumers.”

“I think it straddles the RIM and Apple type product,” said Michelle Digulla, president and general manager of Sony Ericsson Canada in a phone interview.

The X1 features a three-inch touch screen with applications organized into user-defined tiles, similar to the iPhone. It also slides out the QWERTY keyboard that Blackberry users’ thumbs are so familiar with.

The phone is slated for release in the U.S. market in the last quarter of 2008, and in Canada shortly thereafter, says Digulla.

Either Rogers Communications Inc. or Fido Solutions Inc. will carry the device, since X1 will be compatible with a GSM network.   

X1 seeks to deliver a solid handheld multimedia experience with a high-resolution 800 x 480 pixel resolution and a 3.2 megapixel camera that can take video at 30 frames per second.

It also offers business communications through a Windows Mobile operating system that comes with Outlook Mobile and Office Mobile. Users can also perform mobile video teleconferencing over the Web, Digulla says.

But Sony faces an “uphill battle” when it comes to taking Blackberrys out of the hip-holsters of businessmen, says Lawrence Surtees, vice-president and principal analyst of Canadian communications practice at Toronto-based IDC consulting group.

“If you just put some video conferencing in their hands, their eyes are going to glaze over,” he says. “I think it has to be a bit more compelling.”

Video conferencing tends to be pushed by vendors, while businesses don’t seem to be demanding it, Surtees adds.

The X1 will have to deliver on its promise of offering a convergence as a phone and web communications device.

“When businesses hear the world ‘convergence’ they’re thinking something pretty sophisticated,” he says.

Comparing specs-sheets show the X1 has much more storage space (400 megs and a microSD slot) compared to the Blackberry Curve (64 megs and a slot), but not the iPhone (16 gigs with no slot).

It is just slightly bulkier than either device, measuring 4.3 x 0.7 x 2.1” and weighing 145 grams.

A 3D skin over Windows Mobile gives the user some perks, says Sony Ericsson’s Digulla. Text and e-mail messages from a contact can be viewed at the same time, for instance, instead of in the usual separate bins.

“I think RIM is an amazing e-mail device,” she adds. “I think this phone (X1) offers 10 times that – it has a strong e-mail client, and it also offers all the integration from a communications perspective.”

If the device delivers on its promise of offering Web browsing, phone and e-mail communications and organizational tools, it will appeal to some business users, Surtees says.

“Some serious road warriors are going to say ‘I want to test drive this.’”

The X1 is the first phone from Sony Ericsson not to use the Symbian operating system. They worked with Taiwan-based High Tech Computer Corp., a company familiar with designing Windows Mobile devices, on the phone’s development, Suzanne Cross, head of product marketing, North America in a Web cast.

Targeting the North American market and the enterprise sector is part of the company’s plan to become one of the top-three mobile phone competitors in 2008, she adds.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson
Editorial director of IT World Canada. Covering technology as it applies to business users. Multiple COPA award winner and now judge. Paddles a canoe as much as possible.

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