Sony Ericsson predicts massive mobile industry change

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Jun 26, 2007
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We spoke to Ulf Wretling, general manager and head of the developer program at Sony Ericsson today on the announcement of the new Symbian mobile platform, and he told us how the new announcement could re-shape the mobile industry.

"We currently have around 235 models out there," he said. "There are clams, sliders, touch-screens, but going forward we are going to have even more differentiation.

"The Symbian system allows manufacturers the chance to develop a different type of phone. Essentially, with Symbian, any type of interaction is possible.

When asked what kind of new methods these might be, Wretling said it would open up mobile phones for those who may not have had them before.

"For instance, we introduced the accelerometer, which changed the way you could interact with the mobile phone. But with Symbian we can start looking at different areas, such as mobiles for the old or young, blind of deaf."

Wide variety

But Wretling doesn't think that Symbian will be the only OS in the future, as he believes there will always be room for others.

With mobile software platforms such as Microsoft's Windows Mobile currently in a large number of smartphones, and Google's Android or the LiMo OS on the way, will a new Symbian struggle to compete in an already saturated market?

"I imagine there will be a need for different phones in different applications: phones built in to something else, or high-end devices.

"Consumers will change too; we have business people, IT specialists, prosumers etc. It's hard to speculate about the future, but I think there will be room for multiple systems."

Disposing royalty

One of the interesting points the announcement from Nokia has thrown up is the fact that the new system will be free to all developers, so Symbian will no longer charge for each handset, which uses variants of its system.

"One direct benefit of the royalty reduction is that the penalty to have the system is reduced," commented Wretling. "Previously, this meant that lower tier phones wouldn't have been able to absorb this high cost, but now it means we can take the advanced system lower down the handset range."

This really will help the handset manufacturers target the last remaining growth market: the emerging nations. Places like India, China and South Africa are showing a huge surge in handset purchases, but many cannot afford the contracts that allow them access to high-end phones. With free open source, the amount of programs which can be developed specifically for these nations is limitless, allowing the manufacturers to target the nations even more effectively.

But how does helping to develop a free mobile OS make Sony Ericsson money?

"All the different platforms cost competitors money to develop, but with Symbian we'll have less overlap, less redundancy in the system and less porting costs to manage. So, many barriers are reduced, which is a big advantage," said Wretling.

Still gambling on gaming

On a slightly different subject, TechRadar also had the chance to chat about the more recent additions to the Sony Ericsson range.

Does the manufacturer still think mobile gaming can take off in the future? The release of the F-Series of phones says yes, as the accelerometer based games are intended to take play to a new level.

But the failure of the N-Gage phone from Nokia should spell out a massive warning to any company thinking of launching a phone tailored around gaming.

"You will see more advanced phones that are even more fun to play in the future," revealed Wretling. "The experience will be even more impressive.

"We are looking at ways to raise the processing power, to boost the memory (to improve the gaming possibilities).

"We are also looking at other types of interaction with the phones, very different ways to allow the new experience."