Recognising the growing affluence of the mainland, consumer electronics giant Sony plans to simultaneously launch all its new products in Japan and China. At present, the Tokyo-based company's products are first launched in Japan, followed by the United States, Europe and southern China. 'We now want to reverse that order' and conduct simultaneous product introductions from Japan and China, Sony president and chief operating officer Kunitake Ando said yesterday after a speech to the Japan Society of Hong Kong. He gave no timetable for the change. The impetus for the initiative was projections that Sony sales in China would surpass those in Japan by 2008. 'We are targeting China for the future growth of Sony,' he said. Sony's sales in China reached US$1 billion last year. The company has put down deep roots in China since it formed wholly owned subsidiary Sony (China) Ltd, in 1996. The company employs about 10,000 staff in the mainland. It has factories in Shanghai, Suzhou, Wuxi, Huizhou and Beijing. Sony appears intent on using its success in the China market to help boost sales of its troubled mobile phone manufacturing enterprise with former rival Ericsson of Sweden. Mr Ando said he expected the joint venture to rebound and become profitable next year. He blamed the economic downturn for sluggish sales so far. 'After July, the [telecommunications] industry became worse and worse. That's why we could not post a profit or break even this year,' he said. 'We believe we can keep up the speed of our business and the speed of introducing new products. We are now introducing many newly designed handsets to catch up.' The Sony-Ericsson joint venture is an equal partnership. Their mobile phone businesses combined registered shipments of about 50 million units and sales of US$7.2 billion in 2000. Mr Ando also confirmed that Sony's future product developments would support both its Memory Stick storage technology and other storage standards in the market. 'There is a lot of misunderstanding that Sony is only doing something for itself,' Mr Ando said. 'If Sony has given the impression that Memory Stick is proprietary, it is our fault. 'We'll support any other standards. But it depends on our consumers because we cannot force them' to adopt any standard. Mr Ando said Sony's future products might have different slots for Memory Stick, Compact Flash or Secure Digital cards. He declined to reveal a timeline for this strategy.