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Sony Content Is Highlighted In 1st Sony Ericsson Phones

Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications is focusing on entertainment, digital imaging and productivity applications in launching its first co-branded wireless handsets for the North American market.

The joint-venture company, formed last October, said the products will support carriers’ growing emphasis on retaining subscribers and increasing average revenue per subscriber. The products will also help stimulate replacement sales following a year in which worldwide factory-level handset shipments fell, the company said.

“In more developed markets, carriers are moving away from growing [subscriber] numbers to increasing ARPU (average revenue per unit),” said Sony Ericsson president Katsumi Ihara. “The only way to make that happen is to provide exciting new services.” Consumers who have become more sophisticated, he added, won’t replace phones unless they’re offered “exciting applications and product features.”

To support these twin goals, the joint-venture company announced a nonexclusive collaboration with Sony’s content companies to offer embedded and downloadable movie- and music-related content and single- and multiplayer games.

Similarly, Sony has upgraded its Sony Style Imaging Web site to support wireless access from Sony Ericsson camera-phones. Phone users can wirelessly post digital images from the phone to the site to share with friends and family.

In music, Sony will initially offer ring tones based on music from Sony artists, but downloadable music is possible as data speeds grow. Downloadable movie previews and wallpaper and screensavers will be available in the second quarter in the U.S. in cooperation with U.S. carriers, said Rio Caraeff, wireless services VP at Sony Pictures. Sony is already in trials in Europe to stream video over noncommercial W-CDMA networks, he noted.

Worldwide marketing VP Philip Vanhoutte, however, stressed that Sony Ericsson doesn’t intend to become a “mass content reseller” operating independently of carriers. Within an hour of buying a phone, Sony Ericsson wants consumers to “enjoy a couple of relevant applications” but “get the big [content] pipe from the operators.”

Said Howard Stringer, chairman of Sony Corp. of America, “The kids will drive this.”

All of the new phones support downloadable ringtones and graphics. Three can download and display digital pictures (without using an attached laptop or handheld PC), and two Java-based models can download applications, games, and video clips.