Sony Ericsson Puts Faith in Camera Brand
By Carlo Longino, Tue Mar 09 22:15:00 GMT 2004

The mobile device joint venture is hoping Sony's digital-camera reputation will drive sales of their new handsets -- will this give other digital camera makers an in to the mobile market?

Guy Kewney points out that nearly all the new SE devices have a dual-front design, with one side a phone, the other looking like a camera. It lets users hold and use the camera like a traditional model, and the user interface also changes to fit the use.

Marketing the devices as a camera and a phone, not as a cameraphone, is a shot across the bow of digital camera makers, who are certainly going to lose share to phone manufacturers when 1-megapixel and better cameras (like in the new SE S700) become more widespread. But Guy envisions another interesting scenario: if SE's selling phones with the help of the Sony camera brand, how long is it before we see another mobile brand touting its devices' integrated Canon or Nikon cameras, and how would a second-tier photographic brand like Sony compete?

As cameraphones mature and the novelty of having a phone that can take pictures wears off, camera quality will become a competitive issue. And while Sony's digital cameras sell pretty well and have a decent reputation, they're not held in the same regard in photographic circles as brands like Canon, Nikon, Leica and others. So if SE is going to pump their phones as having a Sony camera, it would only be natural for other device makers to sign up branding deals with other, better-known camera companies.

But this also represents a way for those camera companies to see some benefit from the cameraphones that are going to hobble their sales from here on out. The 1-megapixel barrier is significant, and it can't be long before we see 2-megapixel devices in wide circulation, something that will certainly endanger the growth of standalone devices. If the camera makers can get in with manufacturers and develop high-quality cameras for mobile devices, resulting in, say, a Samsung phone prominently displaying its integrated Nikon camera, they can hold on to some of the ground they'll otherwise lose.