Sony Ericsson is to launch a new Windows Mobile handset - the Xperia X1 - featuring a distinctive touchscreen design in the UK on September 30.

The smartphone, announced earlier this year and intended as the first in a line of devices, can have a variety of home screens, called 'panels'. Each panel can include icons for a variety of applications, links and content. Users can choose among nine different panels displayed as icons on the phone's main page.

Like other handset makers, Sony Ericsson is grappling with the hype surrounding Apple's iPhone, which can display applications and functions of the user's choice on its home screen. The iPhone already has a large following of third-party developers and a central location for buying applications, in Apple's App Store.

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Earlier this month, Sony Ericsson introduced a software development kit (SDK) to allow third-party developers to create a wide variety of panels for the phone. The SDK is based on Microsoft Visual Studio, but Sony Ericsson said it has also done its own work to make the SDK easy to work with. Developers will be able to distribute their panels through Handango.

In addition to a touchscreen, the device also has a slide-out Qwerty keypad and a four-way button and optical joystick for navigation. It is equipped with HSDPA for data speeds as high as 3.6Mbps.

Following the three initial countries, Sony Ericsson will roll out the Xperia in other markets across Europe, Asia and Latin America throughout the third quarter. Among others, those will include Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, India, Malaysia and Taiwan in Asia; Spain, France, Italy and Poland in Europe; Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in the Middle East; Argentina and Chile in South America; and South Africa.

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