INTERVIEW-Google Motorola buy to guard Android - Sony Ericsson

Thu Sep 1, 2011 10:31am EDT

* Sees Google-Motorola deal as legal protection for Android

* Presents itself at trade fair as part of Sony family

By Tarmo Virki

BERLIN, Sept 1 (Reuters) - Smartphone vendor Sony Ericsson (6758.T) (ERICb.ST) said it saw Google's (GOOG.O) acquisition of rival Motorola Mobility (MMI.N) as a move to protect Google's Android software from legal attacks by rivals.

All the latest Sony Ericsson smartphone models use Google's Android software and it is one of the top vendors on the platform globally.

Google and handset makers using the platform have been under numerous legal challenges from Apple (AAPL.O), Microsoft (MSFT.O) and others.[ID:nLDE76B0D9]

Apple has also seen the first court-room success in its attempts to block Samsung Electronics (005930.KS) from selling some of its Android devices.

"It is important for us to protect the Android ecosystem," Nikolaus Scheurer, head of product marketing at Sony Ericsson said in an interview.

Last month Google unveiled its biggest deal ever, acquiring Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion, launching it into a lower-margin manufacturing business and pitting it against many of the 38 other handset companies that now use Google's Android software. [ID:nL3E7JF1LD]

The move has raised fears that some top Android vendors like Sony Ericsson could seek other platforms for their smartphones.

"Google confirmed that this is not making Google a hardware manufacturer. I assume the global marketshare of Motorola is somewhere around 15 percent in Android. I think everybody would agree that it does not really make sense to jeopardise 85 percent of your business," Scheurer said.

Sony Ericsson has held on to its option of using Microsoft's Windows Phone platform, but has not rolled out a new Microsoft model for several quarters.


Sony Ericsson's smartphones were showcased at the IFA trade fair in Berlin inside the Sony hall, mixed with Sony's TV sets and new tablets. [ID:nN1E77U0KO]

"We showcase ourselves to consumers as one Sony family," Scheurer said.

When asked whether Sony's entrance to tablets meant Sony Ericsson would not enter the new market, Scheurer said: "Right now we are concentrating on smartphones."

The venture -- which hopes to benefit from close links to Sony brands -- will also launch Sony's music and video services to its consumers over coming weeks. It has gained from the popularity of Sony's Walkman and Cybershot brands over years, and earlier this year rolled out PlayStation phone Xperia Play.

"We really want to differentiate on top of Android. A lot of our differentiation will come from Sony," Scheurer said.

Many analysts say Sony needs to assert control over Sony Ericsson if the venture is to recoup market share in the cut-throat world of smartphones.[ID:nLDE74N0FB]

The company has struggled with shrinking sales -- stemming from its late push into smartphones -- but Scheurer shrugged off some analysts' concerns that sales at the venture have shrunk so much that large operators could opt to work with others.

"I don't see that hampering us," he said.

(Additional reporting by Nadine Schimroszik; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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