New Sony Mylo Communicator Emphasizes Wi-Fi

A second-generation "mylo" communicator device will be on display at the Consumer Electronics Show this week, enhanced by a partnership between the device's maker, Sony Corp., and Wi-Fi hot spot provider Wayport Inc., which provides more than 10,000 hot spots in the U.S., including hotels, airports and McDonald's restaurants.

More than a year after the first mylo debuted in September 2006 to mixed reviews, the new version will go on sale this month for $299, which is $50 less than the original. It provides a new touch screen and a backlit keyboard, but the biggest enhancement may be its support of AOL Instant Messenger, which was missing from the first version's capabilities.

Its footprint is nearly the same, but slightly thinner, at 5.16 by .82 by 2.55 inches. The touch screen, which offers resolution of 800 by 480 megapixels, is 3.5 inches and slides open to reveal the backlit keyboard. It will support Web browsing, Web e-mail, Skype voice-over-IP calls, and a variety of Sony and third-party applications.

The Target Audience

Sony and Wayport see the target audience as teens and college students, although the partnership between the two companies demonstrates the resiliency of Wi-Fi communications even as third- and fourth-generation wide-area wireless applications, such as WiMax, emerge.

Wayport supports Wi-Fi in 9,200 McDonald's restaurants, plus another 1,000 in airports and hotels, said Dan Lowden, vice president of marketing at Wayport in Irving, Texas. A Wi-Fi user in those locations pays $2.95 for two hours, which Lowden said users are "happy to pay, as long as the service is high quality." Wayport is the biggest Wi-Fi hot spot provider in the U.S., ahead of T-Mobile USA Inc. and AT&T Inc., which offers its hot spots to iPhone users.

Lowden said Wi-Fi continues to be resilient despite many emerging networks because it offers high-speed connections inside of buildings where cellular service is often weak.

The success of the iPhone as a Wi-Fi device and the recent appearance of the Wi-Fi-capable BlackBerry 8820 for mobile workers show how important Wi-Fi will be. "We want to enable every Wi-Fi device out there and have been able to do so in advance of devices," Lowden said. Wayport provides many other kinds of connections, not just Wi-Fi, but Lowden said that Wi-Fi is destined to get faster and less expensive.

"Wi-Fi may not be the sexiest thing out there now, but it's real and here and growing like mad," he said.

Visitors to CES can expect to see newly Wi-Fi-enabled robots, cameras and music players, he added.

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