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Sony Launches CLIE, Its First Palm OS Unit

NEW YORK --Promising to do for handheld information/entertainment what it did for portable music, Sony launched its first Palm OS handheld here last night.

Called the CLIE, Sony's new handheld is slightly smaller than the Palm V and comes with a special jog dial for easy one-handed operation. It also has some advanced graphics capability.

The monochrome unit ships next week at a suggested retail price of $400 to a wide retail distribution, including Circuit City, Best Buy, CompUSA, regional retailers and mail-order houses, said Mark Viken, president of Sony's Personal Network Solutions Company. The CLIE is also available direct at www.sonystyle.com.

A color version of CLIE, which is an acronym for Communication, Link, Information and Entertainment, will be offered in the near future, said Sony. Sixty percent of CLIE sales is expected to go to the consumer market, and 40 percent to enterprise, Viken said following the presentation.

Mike Vitelli, president of the Sony Consumer Electronics Group, introduced the CLIE, while noting that "Sony has the brand to broaden consumer adoption of a network-based gadget," and that Sony's clear vision of the handheld will "drive the Palm OS into new areas." Seven million Palm OS units have sold to date, according to International Data Corporation, Framingham, Mass.

The CLIE has 8MB of internal memory, as well as a slot for Memory Stick media, and it comes bundled with an 8MB memory stick. The 4.3-ounce device has a gMedia application to play digital video at up to 15 frames per second, said Viken. "I see a day when you can download a movie trailer while you are waiting online at the movie theater."

In addition the CLIE allows sharing of images so that users can import pictures of faces into their address book. Sony expects to embed applications directly onto Memory Stick expansion modules in the future, including a camera, GPS tracker, Bluetooth connector and voice recorder.