Phone prototypes stolen from Sony Ericsson

A number of stolen prototypes of Sony Ericsson mobile phones were found at the home of a company employee, Swedish police said on Wednesday.

Sony Ericsson is keeping quiet about the situation. A spokesman at the company confirmed that a number of prototypes were involved, but wouldn't elaborate on any of the details, Computer Sweden reported.

The theft was committed sometime during the night between Monday and Tuesday, and yesterday the police received information pointing to the employee.

The person was taken into custody, and has since been questioned by the police. They did not elaborate on what was revealed, according to Computer Sweden.

What the person was planning to do with the phones -- which are worth about 750,000 Swedish kronor (US$90,000), according to the police -- and what kind of devices were stolen remains unclear.

Prototypes can be very valuable to the competition, because they show where a company is heading in the long term, according to Chris Hazelton, research director for mobile and wireless at The 451 Group.

But he doesn't think companies would be willing to consort with a criminal to get their hands on upcoming phones.

These days it's more common that employees leak pictures of upcoming phones to gadget blogs. It's rare that there isn't any information available on a phone at the time of launch, Hazelton said.

Hazelton was impressed by how successful Palm was at keeping its new Pre smartphone under wraps before its launch last week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Sony Ericsson was the third largest phone manufacturer during the third quarter last year, after winning a close battle with LG Electronics and Motorola. But its sales dropped compared to the same period in 2007, according to Gartner.

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