By Harro Ten Wolde
BARCELONA (Reuters) - Sales of Sony Corp's Xperia Z high-end smartphone have got off to a good start since its launch in several leading European markets on Monday, said Sony Mobile's Calum MacDougall, head of Xperia marketing.
"We have seen really good pre-orders", McDougall said in an interview at the Mobile World Congress. "We had the first stocks available in Germany in Berlin at the Sony store and sold those out in two hours.
"In France, we sold more in one day in our online store than we sold in 12 weeks in mobile devices."
The Xperia smartphone, which went on sale in Japan last month and is now available in 60 countries, sells for 649 euros and is part of the Japanese electronics group's push for a greater market presence in mobile devices.
Sony has identified mobile devices, which also include Xperia tablets, as part of its efforts to overcoming problems in its television unit that contributed to a record group loss in its last fiscal year.
"It (the Xperia smartphone) sold over 150,000 units in its first week in Japan, taking a 24 percent market share straight away." McDougall said. "It may be a bit too early to say but the first signs a very positive."
Yet the phone faces stiff competition from already-established devices from Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd. Sony's share of mobile phone sales in the fourth quarter was 1.7 percent, compared with Samsung's 22.7 percent and Apple 9.2 percent, according to consultancy Gartner.
Also in Barcelona, Sony presented the Xperia Z tablet, billed as dust and water resistant. Only 6.9 millimeter thin and weighing 495 grammes, the Tablet Z has a 10.1 inch high-definition screen and will go on sale this spring.
The tablet aims to be a direct challenge to Apple, which has dominated the high-end tablet market, although smaller and cheaper Android-based tablets have also won market share.
"Many have tried and failed to compete with the iPad in the premium 10 inch tablet space and, at first glance, it is difficult to see how Sony expects to achieve this," said David McQueen, Informa telecoms & media analyst.
With its Xperia line Sony hopes to bank on a multi-device strategy, adding its media content such as movies and music, as well as its PlayStation gaming Service. Both devices run on Google Inc's Android operating system, but that doesn't mean it will be Sony's only bet.
Sony Mobile also agreed on Monday to work with Telefonica on developing smartphones aimed at emerging markets powered by the Mozilla Firefox operating system.
Asked if Sony would create a Windows-based smartphone, McDougall declined to say. "The products we will bring to the market in the first half of this year are Android products ... Of course we are always looking at different operating systems."
(Editing by Leila Abboud and David Holmes)