Culture

Sony beefs up its Clie handheld

The company upgrades the high-end device with a faster chip, voice recording abilities and the new version of the Palm OS, according to an internal document seen by CNET News.com.

Sony has upgraded its high-end Clie handheld with a faster processor, voice recording capabilities and the newest version of the Palm operating system, according to an internal document seen by CNET News.com.

The Sony PEG-NX70V carries a suggested price of $600 and will hit retail shelves in early November, according to an internal Sony document that made its way onto the Web this week. On the outside, the device looks much like the current NR-70V, with its built-in keyboard and swiveling digital camera, on the inside, though, Sony has made many improvements.

A Sony representative said the file on the Web was an internal document and declined to comment on the device or its release date. According to the document, Sony plans to announce the device Wednesday.

With its new voice recording abilities, the Clie can store nearly 9 hours of audio on a 128MB Memory Stick, according to the Sony document. The video camera now boasts an improved 640-pixel-by-480 pixel resolution, and the machine is now powered by a 200MHz ARM chip, as opposed to the slower Motorola Dragonball found in the current model. The device will also be able gain wireless data access through an optional 802.11b wireless card.

The gadget will be among the first to take advantage of Palm's new operating system, which runs on a new class of processor and is designed to make it easier for handheld makers to add advanced features such as multimedia and improved graphics. Sony and Acer--by adding their own tweaks to the existing Palm operating system, along with companion graphics and audio chips--have already built devices with improved screens and the ability to play music.

With the new device, Sony is clearly aiming to stay ahead of the Palm OS pack at the high end of the market.

Palm is expected to announce its first OS 5 device, the Tungsten T on Oct. 28. The color handheld combines Bluetooth short-range wireless capability and a high-resolution color screen.

Bluewater Capital analyst Brian Blair said Sony might want to think about adding built-in wireless capabilities to its devices.

"Wireless add-ons are a thing of the past," Blair said. "Having to buy a separate piece to make a handheld wireless--that's passe."

Handspring, which has said nothing about plans for an OS 5 device, is planning to announce next week a software upgrade for its Treo handhelds that adds improvements to several of the Treo's features as well as the ability to work with always-on GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) networks.

The upgrade will be available in Europe and Asia first, with the United States to follow in the coming weeks, sources said. The GPRS upgrade has already been made available in Singapore and New Zealand, but Handspring warned customers outside those countries to wait for software designed to work with their carrier.

Meanwhile, cell phone makers Samsung and Kyocera are both readying new cell phones using the Palm operating system, though neither is using OS 5. First shown in June, Kyocera's 7135 Smartphone builds on its predecessor by adding a color screen, MP3 music playing abilities and a new folding, clamshell design.

Samsung has shown prototypes of a design quite similar to Kyocera's 7135, although its next product to hit the market will be more like its current nonfolding model, albeit with the addition of slightly more curves and an improved color screen.

Both phones are expected in time for the holidays.

News.com's Richard Shim contributed to this report.