Sun, 01 Oct 2000

Handheld devices to hit U.S. stores

NEW YORK (Reuters): Sony Electronics Inc., Sony Corp.'s U.S. arm, unveiled on Wednesday a new handheld device that will display pictures and video clips as well as the usual digital organizer functions.

The Sony CLIE -- which stands for Communication, Link, Information and Entertainment -- will be available in the U.S. in September for about US$400, further crowding a fiercely competitive market for personal digital assistants already populated by Palm Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Handspring Inc.

The device, which uses the Palm operating system, includes a slot for Memory Stick media, which allows for memory expansion and positions the device for more powerful audio and video capabilities.

Pacific Coast Securities analyst James Faucette pointed out that Palm has said it would make all of its products capable of memory expansion by this time next year, but said Sony is uniquely positioned to take advantage of expanded memory.

"This plays to Sony's strength, which is in the consumer market related to music and video," he said.

The Sony CLIE is already available in Japan, and a Sony spokesman said the company was currently looking into other markets such as Europe.

Separately, Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc., a separate U.S. unit of Sony Corp., said it acquired privately held RTime Inc., which provides products and services supporting real- time interactivity on the Internet and high-speed networks. RTime will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Sony Computer Entertainment and will be working to build technology for future games and services over high-speed networks for PlayStation 2 computer gaming systems.

Sony hopes to make Playstation 2 the standard entertainment platform for the Internet. (Nicole Volpe)