CANNES, FRANCE - Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB is readying a series of multimedia kiosks that it hopes will save operators, retailers and users time and money when it comes to fixing common phone faults. The company showed an early sample of the kiosks in its booth at the 3GSM World Congress.
A common remedy for mobile phone performance problems is to update the firmware (the basic operating software coded into a semipermanent memory such as flash). However, this usually involves sending phones back to a service center, a process that takes several days at best. This is costly for the retailers, who must pack and ship the phones, and for the network operators who miss out on call revenue -- not to mention the customers, who lose the use of their phones while all this is going on.
Sony Ericsson wants to simplify the update process by letting customers update their own phones at multimedia kiosks installed in busy stores. The cylindrical kiosks, about 0.5 meters wide and 1.5 meters tall, contain a small PC and feature a touch-sensitive flat-panel display and a docking cradle for a mobile phone. Customers will be able to slot their phone into the cradle after first removing the SIM card, then follow the on-screen prompts to update the firmware. The process will take about seven minutes, Sony Ericsson staff said. The kiosk's computer will also contain a variety of multimedia content that customers can consult while their phone is being updated, and at other times the screen can display promotional messages, either for Sony Ericsson phones or for the store hosting the kiosk, according to Jesper Lykking, who is responsible for service portfolio management at Sony Ericsson.
The kiosks are relatively expensive -- a few thousand euros, according to Lykking -- so they won't appear in every store stocking Sony Ericsson phones. Thirty are ready, 10 of them in the U.S., and a few hundred will be built, in all, he said. One will be placed in each Sony Ericsson national sales office around Europe, he said. The first in-store kiosk should appear in France around the end of the quarter, he said.
The company is still keen to cut the cost of firmware upgrades at other points of sale, but it has another trick in store for them: it aims to put a kit consisting of a cradle and a software CD in a few thousand stores, so that a standard PC can perform the upgrade.
Sony Ericsson has already tested the program, which it calls Update Service Pro, in the A1 store chain of network operator Mobilkom Austria AG & Co. KG. Last year the chain performed about 1,500 updates across its 39 stores, Sony Ericsson said.
The 3GSM World Congress, at the Palais des Congrès in Cannes, France, closed Thursday.