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The Android army includes a few secret agents. We're talking classy spies here -- think 007, resplendent in a classy dinner jacket with a shaken martini close at hand.
The newest ally on the Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) side of the smartphone street is Sony Ericsson, the money-losing handset venture between LM Ericsson (Nasdaq: ERIC ) and Sony (NYSE: SNE ) . Sony Ericsson is launching the Xperia X10 Android phone, a smartly appointed potential rival to high-end phones like the Droid and the Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPhone.
The X10 is presented as the flagship model of a coming line of new Sony Ericsson phones. Hitting store shelves in the first half of 2010, it comes with a full-featured 8-megapixel camera, a 4-inch OLED touchscreen, a high-powered Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM ) Snapdragon processor, and designer-kissed curves. The X10 runs Sony Ericsson's own UX user interface -- a platform that allows for robust social networking and more robust media browsing -- on top of the Android operating system. Plus, the phone is offered in a color scheme that Sony Ericsson describes as “Sensuous Black.” How svelte.
You wouldn't know it was an Android without a magnifying glass, though. The press release presents it as "the Open OS," and the Android moniker shows up only three times, in the technical fact sheet and in an offhand mention of the Android application store.
That's different from the Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) Wireless and Motorola (NYSE: MOT ) Droid and a plethora of other Androids, because most gadget builders like to trumpet their choice of operating system from the rooftops. Still, I strongly suspect that Sony Ericsson's strategy is A-OK with Google.
Go ahead and hide the standard Android interface behind a snazzy new digital experience. You wouldn't really expect a Sony-branded phone to look and feel exactly like a Motorola gadget, would you? And as long as users can connect to the Android store and install applications that were designed for the Android, well, who cares if there isn't a massive Android logo on the phone, Google stickers on the box, and so forth?
Google isn't backing the Android platform to push the Android brand. It's all about placing fancy phones capable of browsing the Web on every belt. Whether the phone you're using happens to be an Android, an iPhone, or any other smartphone, you will probably end up Googling around a bit. When the market for Internet traffic grows, Google wins. The Android is just a means to that end.
Time will tell whether Sony Ericsson’s strategy of unleashing a wave of Android phones will further its own goals as well. Much like Motorola and other handset makers without a strong software platform, Sony Ericsson can utilize the Android OS as a means to catch up with competitors such as Apple. However, with a glut of Android-powered phones being announced, we’ll have to wait and see whether Sony Ericsson’s styling and UX interface are enough to separate it from the pack.
Do you dig Sony Ericsson’s new phone? Drop a note in the comments box below and let us know what phone you’re planning on buying next.