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Clie to plug into USB upgrade

Sony's handheld computers will soon be able to exchange data with other digital devices without going through a PC first.

Sony's handheld computers will soon be able to exchange data with other digital devices without going through a PC first.

The Tokyo-based company said future Clie handhelds will come equipped with Philips Semiconductor's USB On-the-Go chip.

USB On-the-Go, which is an offshoot of the Universal Serial Bus 2.0 specification, lets gadgets such as cell phones link and exchange data directly with other peripherals. While existing wireless data transfer modes such as Bluetooth promise similar benefits, these standards are not omnipresent or backward-compatible. USB slots, on the other hand, are commonly found in existing devices such as printers and digital-audio players.

Although the On-the-Go standard is not new, Sony is among the first gadget makers to detail concrete plans for its adoption. A number of other companies, such as Hewlett-Packard, have said they are evaluating ways to use it.

One analyst said he believes Sony is on the right track by tapping into the large installed base of USB-enabled peripherals.

"It makes sense for Sony (to do this) because of the breadth of devices they have and their close relationship with Philips," said Bryan Ma, a research manager at IDC Asia-Pacific.

Implementing On-the-Go is also cost-effective, Ma said.

CNETAsia's Winston Chai reported from Singapore.