Sony Rolls out Atom-Powered Mini-laptop

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After several weeks of leaks and teasers Sony took the wraps off its anticipated Vaio P-series mini-laptop at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Wednesday evening.

The small machine has a widescreen 8-inch display and measures 24 centimeters wide by 11 centimeters deep by 2 centimeters thick giving it a widescreen-like form factor that, according to Sony, makes is possible to drop the PC into a jacket pocket or handbag.

An advantage of the wide form-factor is that the keyboard can be made slightly larger. The key pitch on the Vaio P is 16.5 millimeters, which is considerably more than on keyboards used on some of the small form-factor netbooks currently available.

"We did something a little bit different with this product," said Michael Abary, senior vice president of product marketing at Sony Electronics. "We thought about who this product would be for and targeted a customer before we conceived or designed this product. And that customer is fashion conscious, skews slightly more female and really is interested in how this product will make them look and feel rather than the speeds and feeds."

The computer is based on an Intel Z520 Atom processor and the screen has 1,600 pixel by 768 pixel resolution. It comes with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and U.S. models will feature a 3G wireless data modem. There's also GPS satellite positioning.

Instant-on is supported by a mode that will take users to Sony's Cross Media Bar, the navigation system employed in the PlayStation 3 and many Sony audio-visual products. Though this interface users can gain quick access to music, video and pictures without booting Windows.

The Vaio P goes on sale in Japan on Jan. 16 for ¥100,000 (US$1,082). It will be available in North America from February at prices beginning from about $900. Launch plans for other markets will shortly be announced by local Sony offices.

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