May 28, 2009 / 9:34 PM / 10 years ago

UPDATE 3-Sony Ericsson introduces Christmas line-up

* New Aino phone links to PlayStation3

* All 3 new phones to hit shelves in early Q4

* Details of software store next week (Adds details on software applications store)

By Georgina Prodhan

LONDON, May 28 (Reuters) - Sony Ericsson introduced a new phone on Thursday that allows consumers to connect to their PlayStation3 gaming consoles, part of its Christmas line-up and its strongest sign yet of integration with parent Sony Corp (6758.T).

The world’s fifth-biggest handset maker, which has slid down the rankings as the mid-market handset segment has been squeezed, said telecoms operators were hungry for phones that could drive data usage without needing huge subsidies.

“What they are looking for are chances to offer unlimited broadband data tariffs while reducing customer acquisition costs,” Lennard Hoornik, Sony Ericsson’s global head of marketing, told Reuters.

Sony Ericsson said it would launch a virtual software applications store — joining a host who have rushed to ape the phenomenal popularity of Apple’s (AAPL.O) AppStore — and would announce details at next week’s JavaOne Conference.

Money-losing Sony Ericsson is in need of new models to renew its offering since the appeal of the years-old Sony-branded Cybershot cameraphones and Walkman music phones has faded.

The Aino phone will allow users to manage media stored on their PlayStation3, much like the PSP mobile console and helping position the video-gaming console as a media hub, but will not allow them to play games or access high-definition video.

Sony Ericsson has rapidly lost market share in recent quarters as demand for so-called feature phones has suffered during the recession. Market expansion has been seen at the high-end smartphone and low-end emerging-markets extremes.

“At last there’s a cooperation between a Sony product and a Sony Ericsson phone,” said Ben Wood of UK-based research firm CCS Insight. “Previously, it was just branding. We see it as a statement of intent.”

Sony Ericsson, a joint venture of Japanese electronics maker Sony and Swedish telecoms gear maker Ericsson (ERICb.ST), is battling with deep losses and is expected to need at least 100 million euros ($139 million) in extra funds in the next year.

Sony Ericsson said the Aino, which will allow consumers to access media content from their PlayStation gaming machine on the move, would be available in the fourth quarter, along with two other phones presented at a London event.

The Satio, previously announced at February’s Mobile World Congress as the Idou, has a 12-megapixel high-resolution camera, while the Yari contains a Nintendo 7974.OS Wii-like gesture sensor for gaming.

Satio will not go on sale until the fourth quarter, which could mean Sony Ericsson would miss the chance to be first to market with a 12-megapixel camera phone, said CCS’s Wood.

Hoornik said the Satio would be the most expensive of the three new phones, given away with high-end contracts committing users to spending around 40 pounds ($64) per month, with Aino next most expensive and Yari the cheapest. (Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Additional reporting by Tarmo Virki; Editing by Derek Caney, Richard Chang, Gary Hill)

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