A Little Fish Is Better Than None
Sony Ericsson, as things currently stand, are supporting three separate mobile operating systems for their smartphone range; Android, Symbian and Windows Mobile. That's a lot for any mobile manufacturer to support let alone one that has been through the financial troubles Sony Ericsson has not to mention the fact that Sony Ericsson isn't sitting upon the same level of market share or mind share around the world as some of the larger brands. So why do they do it?
Ostensibly it's to keep their fingers in as many pies as possible. It's pretty starightforward logic that the more choices you offer the more market segements you cover. In other words if you cast a bigger net chances are you'll catch more fish. The problem with this logic though is that Sony Ericsson just don't seem to have the resources to pull it off well. To continue the net analogy, their big net has holes in it. In basic terms they have been releasing handsets that are, at best behind the curve, and at worst buggy and cumbersome to use.
Symbian: The Dinosaur In The Room
The general consensus, and reflected in our poll, is that Symbian is the weak link. It's a platform most closely associated with Nokia rather than Sony Ericsson, but more than that, it's a platform that is more associated with how smartphones were three or four years ago. That image means that right from the get go many have a certain perception of a Symbian smartphone. Add in shortcomings like the lack of any significant app store or the rather clunky unappealing UI and it's not exactly a recipe for success.
Windows Mobile: The Also Ran (And Might Again)
Windows Mobile took a bit of a hit in our poll too, with 37% of respondents saying Sony Ericsson should ditch it. That's a long way behind the 51% who gave Symbian the thumbs down, but still a very significant share of the vote. To be fair here Sony Ericsson does look to have called time on Windows Mobile, but that's probably more of a case of them being forced to as it's being retired by Microsoft themselves. Sony Ericsson didn't have much success with their Windows Mobile products, but then in an age where smartphones are increasingly being bought by image and ease of use centric consumers rather than business users where they ever really in the running?
Android: The Way Forward
Then we come to Android, which just 12% of respondents say Sony Ericsson should ditch. Looking at it another way that's a support level of 88%. Yet Sony Ericsson has placed itself firmly behind the curve on Android releasing a plethora of products running Android 1.6 with an upgrade to 2.1 on the cards. Android 2.2 is already out and 3.0 is just around the corner. Why the delay? Most likely the insistence upon using their own custom UI e.g. Timescape and Mediascape. That's not to say those things don't add value to the proposition, but the benefits are surely outweighed if it means that Sony Ericsson's customers are left behind in terms of core functionality that the latest Android iterations would bring?
So where does all of this leave us? The aspect that is most striking is the level of support for Android and consequently the lack of support for Symbian. It seems fairly obvious to the casual observer that Sony Ericsson should call it a day on what is a rather tired old platform that even Nokia are floundering a bit with these days. Instead Sony Ericsson could divert those resources into Android and push itself to the fore of what has proven to be a platform capable of reviving flagging fortunes e.g. Motorola as well as establishing a solid mind share amongst consumers e.g. HTC. With Windows Phone 7 about to launch and Sony Ericsson looking to support that too it seems more sensible for a relatively small manufacturer to support the perennialy popular Android platform, whilst also hedging a bet on the new kid that is Windows Phone 7. Symbian has neither of those qualities at the moment and looks to be doing little more than gobbling up resource better spent elsewhere.
In short, out with the old and in with the new.