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Sony to release flagship Xperia smartphone in September: sources

nb20130819a2a-870x581Image-conscious: Xperia smartphones are part of Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Hirai’s plan to revive Sony. | BLOOMBERG

Sony Corp. will launch a flagship smartphone for its Xperia brand next month that features imaging technology developed for its cameras and ultrahigh definition TVs, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The new handset will be unveiled Sept. 4 before the start of the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin, the people said, asking not to be identified because the details haven’t been disclosed.

Xperia smartphones are part of Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Hirai’s plan to revive Sony with handsets, TVs and game consoles that connect with the company’s entertainment content. To lure customers from Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co., the Tokyo-based company is using “X-Reality??? picture-enhancement chips developed for its Bravia TVs and sensors for its Cyber-shot cameras, the people said.

Yu Tominaga, a Tokyo-based spokesman, declined to comment on whether a new Xperia model will be introduced before the IFA show, which runs from Sept. 6 to 11.

Apple will unveil its new iPhone at a Sept. 10 event, a person with knowledge of the plans said this month, asking not to be named because the timing isn’t public. The scheduled Xperia introduction would be about a week ahead of Apple’s event.

Sony’s new flagship has been developed under the internal code name of Honami, a hot-spring area. Sony has been using such names during handset development, including for the Xperia Z, one of the people said.

Billionaire Daniel Loeb, whose Third Point LLC controls funds that own about 6.9 percent of Sony, cited Honami and other products as ways for Sony to gain market share, according to a July 29 letter to investors.

Sony this month rejected Loeb’s push for a partial sale of its entertainment assets, with Hirai citing growing Xperia sales for the company’s decision. Smartphone shipments in the June quarter rose to 9.6 million from 7.4 million a year earlier.

Sony expects to sell 42 million smartphones this year, it said.

Sony’s smartphone market share in the first three months of 2013 stood at 3.8 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Samsung is the world’s biggest smartphone maker with about 33 percent of the market, according to researcher Strategy Analytics.

In an effort to boost its content offerings, Sony reached a preliminary accord to stream cable television programming from Viacom Inc. over the Internet to TVs, game consoles and Blu-ray players, a person with knowledge of the matter said Thursday.

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