Sony to unveil new Clie on Monday

Sony will take the wraps off a new version of its Clie personal digital assistant on Monday.

The company will announce details of the new device and launch plans at an event being held in Tokyo at which new versions of its Vaio line of computers will also be on display, said Mina Naito, a spokeswoman for Sony.

The new Clie will be Sony's first in Japan since it launched the PEG-T400 and color-screen equipped PEG-T600 in November last year. A version of the former device was launched in the U.S. in October although North American consumers didn't see a version of the color model, called the PEG-T615, until February this year.

Sony's announcement will come as Palm Computing KK, the Japanese unit of Palm Inc., cuts the number of products it is selling in Japan's competitive PDA market.

The company is discontinuing the M100 and M105 models after a three-month promotion that saw the M100's price slashed to ¥4,900 (US$38) and has no plans to sell the new M130, which was announced last week in the U.S., said Maki Hashizawa, a spokeswoman for Palm Japan.

There are also no plans to sell the wireless-enabled i705, also announced last week, said Hashizawa, adding Palm plans at present to continue selling only the 500 and 505 models in the Japan market.

Palm's promotional prices and its decision to cut the range of PDAs offered in Japan comes in the face of fierce competition from many of Japan's largest electronics companies. Sharp Corp. had led the market with its Zaurus range of PDAs for some time and the entrance of Palm and Handspring Inc. provided the first sparks of competition.

When Sony backed Palm, things were looking good for the platform, but in the last year Microsoft Corp.'s Pocket PC system has risen in significance after a number of companies entered the business with devices based on that OS. Casio Computer Co. Ltd., NEC Corp., Toshiba Corp., Fujitsu Ltd. have launched Pocket PC-based devices, and Hitachi Ltd. has just entered this market.

The most recent promotion by Palm was a success, said Hashizawa. While the company would not release sales figures, the spokeswoman said sales were three times higher during the promotional period than in the three preceding months. "The market reaction was very positive," she said. "We have had lots of sales."

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