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Details of Sony's new Clie leak out on Web

The company has unveiled the U.S. version of its new handheld by inadvertently posting details and photographs of the product on its Web site.

In what is becoming a commonplace gaffe among tech companies, Sony has unveiled the U.S. version of its new Clie handheld by inadvertently posting details and photographs of the product on its Web site.

The Clie PEG N710C, which is expected to be formally announced as soon as Tuesday, is priced at $499 and can play digital music files and video clips, according to a page on Sony's e-commerce site, Sonystyle.com. The page has since been partially disabled. The unit has 8MB of memory and a higher-than-average resolution with its 320-by-320-pixel color screen.

A Sony representative said Monday that the company is investigating how the information made it onto the Internet, but refused to discuss the details of the device or when it might be available on store shelves. According to the "wishlist" feature on the Sony Style Web site, the unit is set for release May 28.

Sony launched a similar handheld for the Japanese market in March.

The two new Clie units are the first handhelds using the Palm operating system that play digital music files. At the time the Japanese product was announced, a Sony representative told CNET News.com that a U.S. version was on its way, with a launch planned for around midyear.

Sony has been counting on a revamped Clie to improve its fortunes. The company currently garners one or two percentage points of the U.S. retail market for handhelds, according to recent NPD Intelect surveys.

Sony's announcement in November 1999 that it was licensing the Palm OS led some to predict that the company would instantly grab a large share of the market. However, the initial black-and-white Clie released in the United States has been a disappointment as far as sales go. Sony has had to heavily discount the product to move it off store shelves.

"It was overpriced and under-featured," NPD Intelect analyst Stephen Baker said recently.

Links to the Sony page were listed on several handheld enthusiast sites Sunday and Monday.

Accidental postings about new products on company Web sites have become practically routine lately. Hewlett-Packard last month offered details on a new Jornada handheld on a Web site designed for the CeBit trade show. Also last month, Compaq Computer outlined plans for a beefed-up version of its iPaq handheld in what it labeled an inadvertent posting to its Web site.

Earlier this month, IBM published extensive information on its newest Unix servers--including prices and a 30-page detailed description--six days before the company actually announced the product.

Pictures and details of 3Com's ill-fated Audrey Web-surfing appliance were also posted on that company's Web site ahead of Audrey's release last year.