Report: Sony launching new line of handheld gadgets

The company is looking to better compete with Apple with new products set to launch this year, according The Wall Street Journal.

Sometime this year, Sony will launch a new smartphone and a portable tablet-like device, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

The smartphone will be able to play PlayStation games, and the tablet device will be some combination of a Netbook, e-reader, and PlayStation Portable, according to "people familiar with the matter" who spoke to the Journal. The reading/gaming/computer gadget is intended to better compete with the Apple iPad and an expected wave of similar devices from other gadget makers. Both products are supposed to hit store shelves this year, though there are not yet any details on price.

In a statement, Sony said, "As already announced, Sony and Sony Ericsson have been strengthening their collaboration in the networked mobile space. However, it is not our strategy to discuss future products or business plans before we make a formal announcement. Any media report that suggests details of the product or business is based on speculation."

Sony has already announced it is launching a digital download service called Qriocity(pronounced "curiosity"), later this month as a rival to iTunes. Movies, TV shows, music, and video games will be available for download, and these new devices are intended to work with the service.

Though Sony won't confirm it's working on such a device, it's clear the company has its eye on Apple. At a press conference last month, Sony CFO Nobuyuki Oneda expressed his company's interest in competing in the touch-screen tablet market with Apple.

"That is a market we are also very interested in. We are confident we have the skills to create a product," he said. "Time-wise we are a little behind the iPad but it's a space we would like to be an active player in."

But tablets are just one area Sony is looking to improve and compete in better. The electronics giant has been struggling to coordinate all of its many businesses toward a common goal. Two years ago, CEO Howard Stringer laid out a plan to better link the company's wide array of PCs, gaming consoles and handhelds, phones, and music players with its robust content library of games titles, movies, and TV shows.

Execution of that plan has been slowed by financial problems that prompted Sony to close some manufacturing plants, lay off workers, and cut costs across the board.

This story was updated with more background on Sony at 9:45 a.m. PT.

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