Posted by Mike Evans in Articles on February 20, 2009

Sony Ericsson PSP gaming phone
Sony Ericsson had rather a successful MWC this year, with the 12 megapixel Idou being very favourably received, and the new Sony Ericsson W995 marking the first of a new range of phones from the company that it’s calling “Entertainment Unlimited”

Entertainment Unlimited phones are the start of a new strategy for Sony Ericsson that will see the launch of the mythical PSP gaming phone in 2009 and will hopefully solve the financial problems the company has been having of late.

Sony Ericsson’s old strategy

Sony Ericsson Cyber Shot phone
For years now, Sony Ericsson’s strategy has been to focus on just one feature per phone and to make it really good. Thus we had the CyberShot range of phones, which were great at taking pictures, the Walkman range of phones, which were great for music, etc.

Although this strategy had its benefits – the CyberShot camera phones, for example, were generally the best camera phones in their class – it also had its downsides. It meant the company couldn’t compete effectively with the likes of Nokia, LG and Samsung who were busy releasing feature phones that did absolutely everything.

So while Sony Ericsson was releasing its first 5 megapixel camera phone, for example, Nokia would release a 5 megapixeller that also came with GPS, Wi-Fi, HSDPA, a compass and a tonne of other stuff.

It meant the Sony Ericsson looked like the lesser phone, even if its camera was better. This, in turn, hurt Sony Ericsson’s sales – badly.

Sony + Ericsson = problem

Sony logo
The reason for this strategy was Sony, who naturally is very protective of its Walkman and CyberShot brands. A phone with a big camera would be labelled the CyberShot phone, irrespective of whether or not it also had a good MP3 player in it, as the marketing could then focus purely on the CyberShot brand.

The same approach applied to the Walkman brand – by keeping the features (camera and music) separate, the brands could also be kept separate, ensuring that each brand retained maximum visibility in the minds of the buying public.

The problem was that the buying public wre not buying – they wanted an all in one phone, not a phone that seemed good at one thing only.

As Todd Culos, global product manager for the new Idou, told Pocket Lint, “For the high-end stuff where we are competing against the iPhone or the N series [from Nokia] where they have everything, you know for your Cyber-shot phones we’ve had everything for a long time but couldn’t really say it, so we talked about imaging.”

In other words, the company’s existing phones were also all in one feature phones, but the company was not allowed to describe them as such, as they had to push the CyberShot or Walkman brand hard, and talking about other features such as music on a CyberShot phone would, in Sony’s eyes, diminish the brand.

Sony Ericsson’s new strategy – Entertainment Unlimited

Sony Ericsson W995 camera phone
Fortunately, Sony seems to have had a change of heart, no doubt due to the disastrous financial results of both Sony Ericsson and of Sony itself.

Sony has said recently that it’s doing a root and branch strategy review that cold see some “sacred cows” being slaying. Many analysts saw this as a sign that a significant brand, such as the PlayStation, could be dropped, but after this news form Sony Ericsson, I’m not so sure.

It makes more sense when seen in the light of Sony’s branding and marketing strategies of the past. By holding on tightly to each individual brand and not cross promoting them, Sony might have ensured that each brand (CyberShot, Walkman, etc.) remained visible, but it was at the expense of profits as it turned people off the company’s phones.

By slaying the scared cow of the individual brand and letting new products be developed that feature two or more of the company’s brands in the one product, Sony may once again become the innovator it was always known as, and regain some of its lost market share.

The Sony Ericsson W995 (above), which features both the CyberShot and the Walkman brand, is just the first sign of this new strategy. A Sony Ericsson PSP phone may be the second.

The Sony Ericsson PSP phone

Sony Ericsson PSP phone
In his discussion with Pocket Lint, Culos also hinted at the development of a PSP phone (although it may not be called that).

“Under Entertainment Unlimited we will have another product announcement around gaming, with the full proposition with a little twist around gaming,” he said.

Sony has always been known to be extremely reluctant to let Sony Ericsson develop a gaming phone, in case it ate into sales of its poorly performing PSP mobile game console. With Sony’s new strategy, it seems those concerns have now been erased by the reality of the huge losses the company is racking up.

Whether the new Sony Ericsson gaming phone comes complete with the PSP brand on it we’ll have to wait and see. One thing’s for sure, though: Sony Ericsson is definitely releasing a new gaming phone of some form in 2009, and will soon release all in one phones that will take on the high end phones of Nokia and Samsung.

After the past couple of years of uninteresting phones, Sony Ericsson fans, at last, have something to cheer about!

Note: all PSP phone images in this post are Photoshopped concepts – but you knew that already, right?!
[Source: Pocket Lint]