Sony Ericsson's first Android handset, why now?

Beleaguered Sony Ericsson must need good news more than sales, why else would it introduce its first Android phone months early?

Beleaguered Sony Ericsson must need good news more than sales, why else would it introduce its first Android phone months early? Just in time to hurt holiday sales of its current high-end handset!

The new Xperia X10 handset features an 8.1-megapixel camera, a 4 inch wide touch screen, and is built around Google's Android OS and Qualcomm's Snapdragon processor. Camera features include face and smile recognition, allowing the phone to associate photos with names in your contact list.

Introduced Tuesday, the X10, will not ship until after the first of the year, Sony Ericsson said.

(Read our story comparing the X10 to the iPhone and Motorola Droid--it's a cool handset).

Here's the rub: The X10 is being announced just as Sony Ericsson's current top-end model, the Satio, is going on-sale. That handset features a 12-megapixel camera.

Reuters sums it up nicely by quoting a Gartner analyst:

"I think some consumers will think about waiting until the first quarter to get their hands on the X10, rather than get a Satio for Christmas," said Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi.

"It was a difficult call to make trying not to negatively impact products like the Satio ... while at the same time announce something that will persuade consumers not to go to another brand," Milanesi said.

Sony Ericsson remains in deep trouble and is losing money. A recent management shake-up replaced a top Sony executive with an Ericsson exec as CEO after the two companies decided to reinvest in the brand rather than kill it.

The fourth largest handset maker, Sony Ericsson needs to show it has a future product roadmap that is both exciting and makes sense. The X10 will certainly excite many and shows the company in a much-improved light.

However, as Milanesi pointed out, the decision to introduce the X10 just ahead of holiday shopping season could convince potential buyers to hold off.

The conventional wisdom is losing any dollar is a bad thing, but how angry will people who get Satios for Christmas be when the X10 arrives just after the New Year?

Maybe Sony Ericsson is actually wise to sacrifice Satio sales and have happier customers later on.

David Coursey tweets as @techinciter and can be contacted via his Web site.

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