Sony takes more control of Sony Ericsson, appoints Stringer to chair

It's difficult to say which company has suffered most from the bad global economic climate -- Nokia, Motorola, or Sony Ericsson -- but if you ask any of their executives candidly, they'll probably point to their own firms. Last quarter, Sony Ericsson reported shipping 43% fewer phones than in the same quarter of 2008; and in terms of income, the company is bleeding at the rate of a third of a billion euro per quarter.

At the time, company president Dick Komiyama promised he would continue focusing on a return to profitability. This morning, it was learned that Sony has told the division president he can start thinking about focusing someplace else -- preferably, retirement. Effective immediately, Ericsson Executive Vice President Bert Norberg will scoot Komiyama to just a part of the president's chair, until the last quarter of the year when Komiyama will be out altogether. Though Komiyama will officially be sharing the presidency with Norberg until then, no one's under any illusion that this sharing will be anything more than official.

Meanwhile, Ericsson President and CEO Carl-Henric Svanberg will step aside from his chairmanship of the jointly-owned phone producer, to make way for Sony President and CEO Sir Howard Stringer. That means Sir Howard now plays four roles in the global conglomerate, up from the three roles that already seemed daunting enough for the former executive producer of the "CBS Evening News." Already Chairman and CEO of Sony Corp., Sir Howard moved into that president's seat just last February, in a move that the wide-ranging executive tried desperately to characterize as temporary.

Norberg's ascent into the Sony Ericsson presidency may carry with it his software division's plans for high-end handsets, which involve Google's Android. Last month, the firm produced a video showing its own innovative UI, code-named "Rachael," built on an Android platform.

But while Rachael may solidify Sony Ericsson's standings in the smartphone field, it's in everyday cell phones where the biggest challenges lay. Concentrating on the higher end these past few quarters did manage to double its gross margin, from "ridiculous" to at least "tolerable," but with sales volume slipping to tragic levels, that hasn't meant much.

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