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Sony Palm-based PDA makes US debut

Colour version dropped due to LCD shortages

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Updated Sony's upcoming Palm-based PDA was launched in the US last night, just a month after the device family made its Japanese debut.

Then, Sony unveiled two PDAs - or Personal Entertainment Organiser, as it calls them - one with a monochrome screen, the other with a colour LCD. Sony will only ship the backlit monochrome model in the US, and admitted that the decision had been taken because of the worldwide shortage in small form-factor colour LCDs.

Click for full-size imageIn the US, the Sony PDA will be called the Clie, presumably chosen because it's similar to Clip, the name of the company's pen-shaped digital music player. Clie is short for Communication Link Information Entertainment, and while we thought it stood for Sony's PDA-serving, Web-based content portal, it now appears to be the name of the device too.

And a pretty poor name it is too. Pronounced 'Cly' or 'clee', it's still doesn't slip off the tongue. In fact, it's actually pronounced 'clee-ay' -ie. an acute accent on the 'e' - not that that's exactly obvious.

And at $399 it may not slip off the shelves either. The retail market is increasingly becoming the province of low-cost machines. Palm's own consumer-oriented device, the m100, retails at $149, to match Handspring's Visor, which is setting the consumer PDA standard. With a machine more than twice that price, Sony will have to rely on branding if it's going to make the machine a success.

We suspect many would-be PDA buyers, attracted by Sony's marketing, will nevertheless walk away with cheaper Palm or Handspring machines. Still, if that grows the PalmOS market, that's no bad thing, and Sony's PDA - simply because it is a Sony - is unlikely to be a poor seller.

The colour PDA might change that, but it's not set to appear in the US until sometime next year, and even then will to be more expensive than monochrome machines.

The Sony Clie will ship with 8MB RAM, 2MB Flash memory and an 8MB MemoryStick card, PalmOS 3.5, USB Cradle/charger, built in LiIon battery, AC travel adaptor and a protective case. ®

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