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Sony handhelds get FCC nod

Three Clie devices get wireless regulatory approval from the Federal Communications Commission, a sign that their release is near.

A trio of handheld computers from Sony Electronics has received wireless regulatory approval from the Federal Communications Commission.

The grant for the three Clie devices came down from the U.S. federal agency last week. While Sony representatives declined to comment on the handhelds or their availability, wireless products are generally released shortly after the FCC deems that they do not interfere with other products. In the past three years, Sony has announced new handhelds in March.

The devices will enter a faltering handheld market. Worldwide shipments were up 1.1 percent to 2.37 million units in the third quarter of 2003, compared with the same period the previous year, according to IDC. But the market fell 21 percent in the first quarter and 10.7 percent in the second quarter last year, so that handheld sales are expected to show an overall decline of about 25 percent for the whole year, compared with 2002. Analysts are not expecting a strong holiday season, based on a lukewarm back-to-school reception for the devices.

Still, Sony has an elaborate portfolio of devices to buffet declines in handhelds and has a commitment to stay in the business.

Enthusiast sites such as Brighthand first reported on the Sony devices and the FCC grants.

All three of the devices filed with the FCC--the Clie PEG-TJ37, PEG-TJ27 and PEG-TH55--feature version 5.2 of the Palm operating system, 32MB of memory, a Memory Stick slot and a built-in digital camera.

The Clie PEG-TJ37 and the PEG-TJ27 have the same case design, use a Motorola processor and come with a color screen with a resolution of 320 pixels by 320 pixels. The TJ37 also comes with a digital audio player and with 802.11b-based wireless networking capabilities.

The TH55 will be the second device to use Sony's ARM-based Handheld Engine processor, which tops out at 123MHz and includes a graphics engine, a camera interface and a Memory Stick interface. The TH55 comes with a color screen with a resolution of 480 pixels by 320 pixels, with built-in 802.11b-based wireless networking capabilities, and with a digital audio player and voice recorder.