'

Sony revamps PalmOS-based PDA

Sony is getting its second wind in the race for the handheld market

The consumer electronics giant announced Tuesday it will begin shipping its second-generation Clie device, the PEG N710C, early next month in the US. No UK shipping date has been announced yet. The $499 (£350) device will be able to play digital audio and video files and will have a 320-by-320-pixel colour screen.

As reported by CNET News.com, details and photographs of the new model were inadvertently posted on Sony's Web site before the official launch.

The first version of the Clie disappointed many analysts and followers of the PDA (personal digital assistant) market who expected more features from a Sony device. However, many of the capabilities expected in the first-generation device are included in the new Clie, which should help Sony's efforts in the handheld market.

Earlier this month, Fujio Nishida, president of Sony Electronics, acknowledged the shortcomings of the first Clie device, saying, "It didn't have colour and was a little pricey. We are bringing out a better product."

The lack of enthusiasm in the market for the Clie was evident by the device's poor sales. Recent figures from research firm NPD Intelect estimated that the Clie's market share was in the low single-digit range, placing it far behind other PDAs based on the PalmOS, such as Handspring's Visor and Palm's own devices.

Nonetheless, the addition of audio playback and the higher-than-average screen resolution should set the Clie apart from its Palm OS-based competitors.

The new Clie will be able to play both MP3 audio files and those in Sony's digital format, ATRAC 3. The high-resolution colour screen will also improve video playback.

Palm and Handspring introduced new slim models, the m500 series and the Visor Edge, last month.

The Clie will use version 3.5.2S of the Palm OS, which supports USB. The device will also use a 33MHz Motorola Dragonball VZ processor and will come with 8MB of memory. A lithium-ion polymer battery will power the Clie. The Clie will weigh 5.7 ounces and measure 2.88 inches wide, 4.75 inches tall and 0.69 inch thick.

The Clie will use Sony's Memory Stick media for expansion capabilities. There are over 5,000 developers creating applications for the Memory Stick, according to Sony. Company representatives expect digital camera and global-positioning system modules in 2002.

The Clie has been available in Japan for about a month.

News.com's Michael Kanellos contributed to this report.

How can you get access to information and entertainment from just about anywhere? Find out with ZDNet UK's Mobile Technology Special.

Have your say instantly, and see what others have said. Click on the TalkBack button and go to the ZDNet News forum.

Let the editors know what you think in the Mailroom. And read other letters.