Sony moves handhelds into the living room

Is it a handheld PC? Is it a TV remote control? No, it's the Sony Clie PEG-T415
Written by Richard Shim, Contributor

Sony is giving couch potatoes something to cheer about.

The electronics giant will today (Monday) announce the $299 (£200) Clie PEG-T415, which will incorporate features of a handheld computer and a universal remote control. Consumers will be able to look up appointments and contacts while channel surfing on a TV set or controlling audio and video equipment such as a VCR or a stereo receiver.

The company has boosted the reach of the Clie's infrared port -- usually used to exchange data with other handhelds -- to 15 feet and added software support for remote control of products from about 20 consumer electronics manufacturers. Sony is working on software upgrades that will allow the PEG-T415 to control additional products.

"We're expanding on our strategy of focusing on entertainment," said Sony product manager Ty Takayanagi. "We see this device as more than a handheld -- it's a conduit to all home audio and video devices... People understand how to use a remote control, so it made sense to build this feature into the new Clie."

Takayanagi added that the device fits into what Clie stands for -- a communications link to information and entertainment.

IDC analyst Kevin Burden said that the PEG-T415 is following a common theme in the handheld market, which is to add features to devices to make them more useful.

"Everyone is starting out with a PDA, and now they're looking to see what sticks," Burden said. "Sony, in particular, is trying to get their devices to be an integral part of the home.

"They're headed in the right direction, but not everyone has a home theater. This sounds nichey to me."

Competitors Palm and Handspring have been working to add wireless communications capabilities to their handhelds. Handspring recently announced three wireless Treo devices, and Palm is expected to announce its device early next year.

Sony already has a handheld in the market that is a combination digital audio player and handheld, called the PEG-N760C.

The device will be available in retail stores at the end of November and can be preordered from Sony's e-commerce Web site.

The PEG-T415 will come with version 4.1 of the Palm operating system, and the monochrome screen will have a resolution of 320 pixels by 320 pixels. The new Clie will measure 0.41 inches thick -- thinner than other models -- and come with a Jog Dial navigation button and a Memory Stick expansion slot. It will have 8MB of memory.

The consumer electronics giant will also announce a new digital camera add-on for the Memory Stick slot. The Memory Stick Camera Module will cost $149 and will be available by the end of November. It can capture images at a resolution of 320 pixels by 240 pixels.

Sony also will announce a different version of an MP3 player attachment, designed for the new Clie. The Audio Adapter will cost $129 and will be available at the end of November in the US. A UK launch date has not yet been announced.

See the Mobile Technology News Section for full coverage.

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