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Reg Kit Watch Declaring the barrier between the PC and the AV worlds officially broken, Sony yesterday extended its Vaio brand of computers to include a digital music player.

Sony Vaio Pocket Digital Media PlayerThe Vaio Pocket VGF-AP1 contains a 20GB hard drive, and also marks a major shift in Sony's portable music strategy, which to date has centred on solid-state and MiniDisc Walkman products.

The ¥53,000 ($465) player sports a 2.2in, 320 _ 256 26,000-colour LCD and can download photography from a digital camera, Sony said. In that respect, it's pitched more at next Christmas' Microsoft Personal Media Center devices than the iPod, but it's clear Sony has its eye on the Apple's device too. It will ship with earphones and a USB 2.0 connection cradle that doubles as its battery recharge unit. Sony claims the Lithium Ion battery will provide 20 hours' playback time.

Like Sony's other digital music players, the Pocket will only play songs encoded in the company's own ATRAC 3 format.

The device sports Sony's G-Sense interface which maps sectors of the display onto a series of 25 buttons. The handheld unit measures 11.5 x 6.3 x 1.7cm, but the right-hand side rear bulges out to 2.7cm thanks to the battery. The Pocket weighs 195g.

Sony yesterday launched a Windows XP-based Centrino handheld that ships without an integrated keyboard. The launch follows an early announcement that it will offer a true electronic book later this month.

The Pocket will go on sale in Japan in June. US and European launches appear likely but Sony said it has yet to set a date. ®

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