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Sony Launches Handheld Computer

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NEW YORK (AP) — Sony Corp. announced plans Wednesday to launch next month a handheld computer that uses Palm Inc.'s operating system and offers some entertainment features.

The choice of operating system represents a win for market leader Palm in its struggle to keep devices running Microsoft's Pocket PC operating system from breaking into the market.

The CLIE, an acronym for ``Communication Link Information Entertainment'' (pronounced CLEE-ay), will cost about $400, about the same as Palm's high-end Palm Vx.

Sony aimed to widen the market for Palm handhelds beyond mobile professionals and tech-friendly ``early adopters'' by including multimedia and entertainment features, said Palm executive Mark Bercow.

The multimedia capabilities of the first Sony handheld are relatively modest, however. It can show pictures and small video clips on its monochrome screen, but cannot play sounds.

Sony had earlier said it would bring out a handheld with a color screen.

Sony spokesman David Yang said parts shortages had forced a change in plans, and that a color handheld can be expected in the middle of next year.

Palm has previously played down the multimedia capabilities of the rival Pocket PC devices, saying customers wanted a simple device that does a good job of handling basic organizer functions like calendars and address books.

Most of the Pocket PC devices made by Compaq, Casio and Hewlett-Packard come with color screens that can play movie clips, sound jacks for digital music, and expansion slots for accessories. Palm also makes a model with a color screen.

The CLIE will have the same amount of internal memory as the Palm Vx, 8 megabytes, but will also come with an 8-megabyte Memory Stick, a storage device that can be used to transfer data between the CLIE, digital video and still cameras and personal computers.

The CLIE weighs 4 ounces, and is about the size of a small TV remote. It is slightly thicker and longer and narrower than the Vx.

The Palm operating system has also been licensed by Handspring Inc. for its line of Visor handhelds. Similar to Palms, they add an expansion slot for accessories.

Palm and Handspring have sold 7 million handhelds, giving the Palm operating system a 66 percent share of the worldwide market for handheld computers.

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