Sony to end Clié line of PDAs

Sony Corp. is calling an end to its Clié line of PDAs (personal digital assistants) in Japan, the company said Tuesday. 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 Clié PDAs in Japan although it will continue to offer service and support for its users, said Aki Shimazu, a spokeswoman for Sony in Tokyo.

"What we are doing here is exactly the same as what we did before (in overseas markets)," she said. "There won't be any new Clié 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 AB and computer gaming-orientated devices with Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. and its recently launched PSP (PlayStation Portable), she said. 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," said Shimazu.

The Clié 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 20MHz. The PDAs had 4M bytes 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 ¥55,000 (US$520) for the monochrome model and ¥60,000 for the color model.

By comparison, the company's most recent Clié, the PEG-VZ90 that was launched in September 2004, is based on a much faster 123MHz 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 95M bytes of user storage space and functions such as built-in wireless LAN connectivity and movie and music players. It cost around ¥95,000 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 Corp.'s Linux-based Zaurus models and Windows-based devices from Toshiba Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co.

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