Sony Targets Palm with Clie PDA

The product will be available in the US from late September and carries a recommended retail price of $US399 -- exactly the same as Palm's sleek Vx model and its color IIIc model. Despite announcing both color and monochrome versions for Japan, the Clie will debut in the U.S. as a monochrome-only device indicating Sony is aiming more for the style-conscious Palm Vx user. Thanks to Sony's styling many users are likely to find the monochrome version of the Clie, like the Palm Vx, more stylish than the Palm III.

Sony's hardware has little to differentiate it from the Palm Vx. It sports the same 8M bytes of memory and is almost the same size. At around 11.5 centimetres by 7.1 centimetres by 1.5 centimetres, the Clié is 0.8 centimetres narrower and 0.5 centimetres thicker -- and at 121 grams, weighs in around 7.5 grams heavier than the Palm Vx.

The largest difference between the two machines is in support for Sony's MemoryStick. While the Palm does not have any slots for media cards, the Clie supports MemoryStick which initially provides a convenient way to expand memory and will, in the future, also act as a connector for a range of yet-to-be-released hardware cards, such as a digital still camera model.

In software too there is little to separate the two machines although the Clie will have more support for digital imaging. With a slot for Sony's MemoryStick memory card, users of the company's digital still cameras will be able to view images directly on the Clie and, unlike the Palm devices, the machine also includes a video viewer. Based on technology from Silicon Valley start-up Generic Media, the software can display images at between four and 10 frames per second.

In Japan, where Palm and other US PDA makers have failed to gain a large market share, Sony will be positioning the Clie as an accessory for the audio-visual or entertainment-conscious consumer while in other markets the focus is more on its use as a work tool.

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Martyn Williams

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