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Sony Digital Intros Get Connective

LAS VEGAS – Sony took the wraps off a number of digital products for the company’s vision of a “ubiquitous value network,” that Sony Electronics U.S. president Fujio Nishida said will help ensure his company holds onto the leading market share positions in most of the categories in which it competes.

Among the highlights of the offerings formally unveiled at a CES-eve press conferenece, was an ultra-compact digital camcorder format called MICROMV, a pair of megapixel FD Mavica digital still cameras, new lines of Hi8 and Digital8 camcorders and car head units highlighted by a model with a 32,000-color TFT LCD display and another equipped with a built-in hard disk drive.

The company also announced a Net MD Walkman Player, a MiniDV format Video Walkman VCR, and a VAIO Notebook PC that measures 1-inch thick

Also at the event, Nashida announced that while other companies struggled with the economy in 2002, Sony set a new sales record for the critical November sales month. He added that Sony holds the No. 1 market share in big screen television, digital cameras, personal audio, home audio and DVD-video categories.

Nashida attributed the success in part to growing adoption of broadband connectivity by consumers who now have “the means to enjoy new entertainment options,” he said. For that reason, many of the products Sony introduced featured digital connectivity capability.

The highlight of the presentation was a pair of MICROMV- format digital camcorders that use MPEG2 (not DV) video compression, enabling the development of tiny tape cassettes, roughly comparable in size to a box of matches. The camcorders measure roughly four inches long by 2 inches wide, and weigh about 13 ounces.

The MICROMV tapes will store up to 60 minutes of video, and resolution is said to be comparable to the 500 lines produced by D8 camcorders and entry miniDV models.

The two MICROMV models include the DCR-IP5, which will carry a $1,299 retail price, and the DCR-IP7BT, which will retail at $1,699. Both will be delivered in mid February.

The camcorders feature 1.5-inch LCD monitor panels, Carl Zeiss optics, 10x optical/120x digital zoom lenses, and Super SteadyShot image stabilization. The step-up unit adds Blue Tooth wireless connection technology that links to Blue Tooth cell phones and other phones with a Blue Tooth adapter to access the Internet. The camcorder can then be used to read and download email, browse Web sites and send still images and MPEG1 video clips from the camcorder to others.

Sony also unveiled its three-model Hi8 analog camcorder line, all of which now include LCD panels. The entry model starts at a new low retail price of $299. The 2002 D8 line includes five models ($499-$899), including a new low $799 price point for a Memory Stick equipped model with megapixel digital still photo capability. Sony will unveil new miniDV digital models later in the year.

Before introducing the Net MD Walkman, Nishida disclosed NPD market research data that showed more MD players with PC-Link capability were sold than any other portable mp3 player. Sony’s new line of Net MD Walkman, which will range in price from $180 to $350 when they ship in April, offer more than five hours of music playback from a single 80-minute disc and will play for more than 50 hours on a single AA battery.

Key new mobile products were a pair of Xplod head units with AV/IT connectivity capability. One single disc CD model (MEX5D1) offers a 4.5-inch 32,000-color LCD screen that displays full color still images or video clips stored on Memory Stick media. It ships in April for about $1,000. The second unit (model MEX-HD1) is a CD receiver with a built-in hard drive capable of storing up to 165 hours of music recorded from CDs at up to 8x speed. It will ship in April for about $1,500.