At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Sony Ericsson introduced the Xperia X1, a touch-screen smartphone built to run Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating system.
Multimedia touch-screens have been a common feature for many newly announced smartphones ever since the iPhone took the market by storm last June.
"Absolutely, it's a response to the iPhone," Avi Greengart, research director for mobile devices at Current Analysis, said of the Xperia announcement. "It's also a response to HTC and Samsung and Nokia's announcement that some time soon – they won't say when – they're going to have a touch-screen smartphone as well. The notion of a high-end multimedia touch-screen phone -- it's a form factor trend. It's not just Apple, but Apple is possibly the most prominent."
The iPhone has already captured about 28% of the U.S. smartphone market, according to market data firm Canalys.
Jack Gold, president of J. Gold Associates, said smartphone users simply prefer multimedia touch-screen displays because it's easier to navigate with one's fingers than with a stylus.
The Xperia features a three-inch touch-screen display that slides horizontally to reveal a full Qwerty keyboard. It has broad radio capabilities, with quad-band GSM and four bands of HSDPA and HSUPA, which means it will run on both T-Mobile and AT&T in the United States. It's also Wi-Fi enabled.
Sony Ericsson is acknowledging a growing trend toward multimedia touch-screen smartphones, Greengart said. "And this is their attempt to get it," he said. "They haven't had as much success as they'd like, and they're willing to move to a new platform to get there."
That platform switch is the other big news here, according to Gold. He said Sony Ericsson's decision to partner with Microsoft and build a device for Windows Mobile signaled that the company might be getting out of the operating system business in order to concentrate on building devices.
"It's hard to be an operating system/user interface type of company," Gold said. "It's much easier to focus on building devices." He said the announcement could signal that Sony Ericsson might be poised to move away from UIQ, the version of the Symbian operating system that all its other smartphones run on, in order to focus more on the development of devices.
Windows Mobile is popular among business adopters of smartphones, Gold said.
"Companies like deploying applications on it because it's very similar to Windows," he said. "If they've worked with Windows, then they can probably work with Windows Mobile."