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Sony Sees MS, i.LINK As Keys To Networking

TWICE Online's coverage of the 2000 International Consumer Electronics Show.

Sony highlighted the IEEE 1394 digital interface it calls i.LINK and its Memory Stick storage media as keys in home network and portable network solutions in the near future.

As part of Sony's introduction of two direct-view and four rear-projection digital TVs that will all have i.LINK ports, it touted the technology as a bridge "to form a seamlessly integrated and unified home-networked environment," said Vic Pacor, senior VP of television and digital media products, during the company's Tuesday press conference at its CES booth.

According to Sony, i.LINK's strength is that copyright-protected HDTV content can be securely transferred between set-top boxes and its new DTVs.

Commenting on the industry's rollout of DTV so far, Pacor said acceptance has been "slower than expected" due to a "small amount of terrestrial content" and "unrealistic sales projections." He added that the industry has provided "limited consumer outreach. different industry agendas [and] no cable or satellite TV solutions."

The Sony line, which is expected to be available in late summer, includes the 34" KW-34HD2 and 36" KD-36HD2 screen sizes with 4:3 aspect ratios, which should retail for $5,500 and $5,000 respectively.

In the big-screen area there will be the 57" KWP-57HD2 and 65' KWP-65HD2, which both feature a 16:9 aspect ratio screens. The big-screen sets are expected to sell for about $6,000 and $7,000, respectively.

And Sony will market a 53" KDP-53XBR500 and 61" KDP-61XBR500, featuring conventional 4:3 aspect ratios and allowing HDTV content to be displayed as 16:9 letterboxed images in full 1080i resolution. The models are expected to retail for $5,500 and $6,500, respectively.

The Sony line features DRC-Multi Function, a circuit that allows viewers to see content either in 960i or 480p resolution. Standard-definition 480i can be displayed in either 960i or 480p.

On the other side of the networked solutions question is Memory Stick. At CES, Sony is demonstrating currently available, new and future products based on its storage media - which is available in 8, 16, 32 and 64MB sizes, with 128MB, 156MB and 1GB sizes coming soon, according to Fujio Nishida, president of Sony Consumer Products Marketing Group.

The displayed products using Memory Stick include a portable music server, memory pen, line scanner, cellphone, electronic book, portable album viewer, GPS personal terminal and video viewer.

Sony also announced that it has reached an agreement to have merchandise displays of Memory Stick products in more than 600 Circuit City locations this spring. The displays will highlight existing products using the format and explaining the format's capabilities.

Industry support for Memory Stick continues to grow, according to Sony. Lexar Media will begin development of high-speed Memory Stick media. The company joins 26 others firms since November that said they will be licensing the technology for use in portable electronics, audio, telecommunications and automotive applications.

The company is unveiling at CES a new line of Digital 8 Handycam camcorders with four units that use Memory Stick transfer and storage media to expand the capabilities of digital still imaging in a camcorder. This new line will include the first camcorder with built-in color printer (the DCR-TRV820), also with Memory Stick media.

In DVD video Sony is introducing three single-disc models, two advanced five-disc changers, two portables (including the first with the 7" LCD screen), and a fully featured lifestyle system combining DVD/CD function with a digital multichannel amplifier that includes Dolby Digital decoding.

The five-disc DVD/CD models offer Sony's Disc Explorer feature as well as a new Custom Parental Control system. Both changers, the DVP-C670D ($500) and DVP-C660 ($400) will be available in July.

The single-disc decks range in price from $250 to $500 each and will be available this spring.

The DVP-FX1 and DVP-F5 are DVD video laptops with LCD screens and several upscale features. The former is priced at $1,500 and available in May, and the latter is priced at $600, with availability scheduled for June.