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Sony turns Clié PDA into digital audio, movie player

New colour model launches in Japan

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Sony launched its latest Clié PalmOS-based PDA in Japan this morning.

The Clié PEG-N700C takes the platform into multimedia territory. Sony not only bundles a pair of Walkman-style headphones, but there's a new app called AudioPlayer. The device's audio format of choice is Sony's ATRAC 3 - the same compression scheme used by MiniDisc - but we reckon the device will come with software to convert MP3s to ATRAC, just as Sony's digital music players do.

In addition to the previous Clié's support for Sony's MemoryStick, the PEG-N700C supports Sony's MagicGate technology, designed to prevent copyright material stored on an MS from being copied. MG-based media are white rather than regular MS' blue.

The device contains gMovie, a digital video player, and TVScape, which appears to support streamed video channels originally designed for iMode. That suggests some sort of wireless connectivity unit is in the works. There's already a regular modem, and the PEG-N700C ships with both email and Web browsing software.

The new Clié looks rather smarter than the previous version. Like Handspring's Visor Edge, which was launched on Monday, it's based on a 33MHz Motorola Dragonball VZ CPU, contains 8MB of memory and runs PalmOS 3.5. The colour display is a high-res 320x320 LCD - the Edge's screen is mono 160x160, by contrast - and by the look of it supports 16-bit colour.

The PEG-N700C joins the PEG-S500C and PEGS300 that Sony launched last summer. Thanks to the great shortage of small-format colour LCDs, Sony didn't release the colour PEG-500C outside of Japan. However, at the launch Sony said it would eventually ship the PEG-500C oversees. The release today of the PEG-N700C suggests we may get that model rather than the older version.

It will also have to do something about the price. For all the new machine's flash new features, if Sony charges a premium, it will be unlikely to attract buyers. The PEG-S300 shipped in the US at $399 - though we notice it's since dropped to $299 - right when Palm and Handspring were offering consumer-oriented PDAs for less than half that. Which may explain why it hasn't sold as well. ®

Related Link

Sony's Clié PEG-N700C site (loads of pics, screenshots, but Japanese text)

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