Sony's Clie Hits the End of the Road

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Sony is bringing an end to its Clie line of PDAs in Japan, the company says this week. The move comes eight months after the company said it would no longer sell new models of PDAs overseas and puts the cap on a product line first announced by the Tokyo company in mid-2000.

The company won't be launching any new Clie PDAs in Japan although it will continue to offer service and support for its users, says Aki Shimazu, a spokesperson for Sony in Tokyo.

"What we are doing here is exactly the same as what we did before [in overseas markets]," she says. "There won't be any new Clie PDAs but we are not necessarily exiting the PDA business."

Sony is considering further products built in collaboration with other group companies including telecommunication-orientated products with Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications and computer gaming-orientated devices with Sony Computer Entertainment and its recently launched PSP (PlayStation Portable), she says. However, at present no such firm plans for products have been decided.

"It's a chance for us to recharge our batteries, to sit down and consider the business," says Shimazu.

Humble Beginnings

The Clie line came a long way in its roughly four-year life.

The first two products from Sony, the monochrome-screen PEG-S300 and color-screen PEG-S500C, went on sale in Japan in September 2000, and were based around processors running at 20 MHz.

The PDAs had 4MB of flash storage and a screen resolution of 160 pixels by 160 pixels. The color version supported 256 colors. For that feature set, users paid around $520 for the monochrome model and $575 for the color model.

By comparison, the company's most recent Clie, the PEG-VZ90 that was launched in September 2004, is based on a much faster 123-MHz processor and sports a state-of-the-art OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) display with 480 pixels by 320 pixels resolution and support for 65,536 colors. It has 95MB of user storage space and functions such as built-in wireless LAN connectivity and movie and music players. It cost around $900 at launch.

Sony's exit from the Japanese market will also mean that no competitors are selling Palm OS-based devices locally. What little competition there is in the Japanese PDA market is now between Sharp's Linux-based Zaurus models and Windows-based devices from Toshiba and Hewlett-Packard.

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