BARCELONA–Those persistent rumors that Sony Ericsson’s parent companies are imminently ready to throw in the towel on the struggling handset maker? Put those to rest, according to Sony Ericsson CEO Bert Nordberg.
Nordberg, who was named president of Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications last fall, and Rikko Sakaguchi, chief creation officer at Sony Ericsson, on Wednesday answered wide-ranging questions from a small group of journalists gathered in a conference room at Sony Ericssson’s booth here at Mobile World Congress.
Of course, what’s top of Nordberg’s mind these days is making the company profitable and if all goes as planned, that will happen by the end of this year. “If I could be profitable tomorrow, I would be happy,¨ he said. ¨ I have said to the market that the full effect … will be the second half of the year.”
Nordberg said the 2010 budget was approved by the parent companies – both of whom have expressed nothing but support for the handset division – and “we’re working day and night to make it profitable.” It also helps to have a strong portfolio, which he believes the company now has in what it calls the Fab 5.
“We have come up over the water line,” he said, adding that attaining a 10 percent operating margin would be considered good. He also said Sony Ericsson is going after value share as opposed to market share.
Sony Ericsson is a 50/50 joint venture by Sony and Ericsson that was established in October 2001. It saw some success with its Walkman and Cybershot phones in parts of the U.S. market, but it’s almost an afterthought for a lot of handset geeks. Sakaguchi acknowledged that part of the falling-out process for the company was putting too much into those Walkman and Cybershot products, which didn’t offer enough functionality for what the market is demanding now.
The executives believe they’ve turned things around with their latest portfolio, although time will tell as a couple of the new releases will not ship until the second quarter. Nordberg and Sakaguchi also made it clear they’re not going after the same market as the iPhone, but that the strength of the company rests in a well-rounded portfolio.
Earlier this week, Sony Ericsson unveiled three new phones, including two based on the Android platform, but it’s not known if or when the Android models will hit the U.S. market, although the models would work on AT&T’s frequencies. The company wasn’t naming any operator partners for launch.
Overall, Nordberg made it clear that Sony Ericsson’s strategy is not to bypass the operator. Asked whether it was true that Google approached Sony Ericsson to make a phone like the Nexus One, there wasn’t a clear-cut answer, but Nordberg said the company will not make a product without its own brand on it.