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Sony begins selling new color handheld

The company continues its fast-paced expansion into the handheld market, releasing its eighth Clie device of the year, the PEG-SJ30.

Consumer-electronics giant Sony continued its fast-paced expansion into the handheld market, releasing its eighth Clie device of the year, the PEG-SJ30.

The $300 Clie PEG-SJ30 is an entry-level color device that comes on the heels of the SJ20 and SJ10, which both began selling earlier this summer. The SJ30 comes with a 16-bit color screen with a screen resolution of 320 pixels by 320 pixels. The device also includes 16MB of memory, a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, a Memory Stick expansion slot and version 4.1 of Palm's operating system.

Sony has been aggressively pushing innovation in the handheld market after a shaky start with its first device in August 2000. The company was the first to offer integrated features such as digital audio players and digital cameras in its devices, and may now be looking to establish a new corner of the market with devices using version 5 of Palm's OS, due out this fall.

"We've slowly been putting features typically found in the high end into lower-end devices, so we can reach a larger audience," said Sony spokesman David Yang.

Putting once high-end capabilities into lower-end devices leaves the door open for Sony to introduce fancier capabilities in devices running Palm OS 5. The company has held off on diving into the wireless market, an area competitors Palm and Handspring have explored with only limited success. Instead, Sony has focused on entertainment.

The company recently moved into the No. 2 position in retail handheld sales, according to NPD Techworld, and No. 3 in the worldwide handheld market in the second quarter, according to research firm IDC.

The handheld market has been slumping, with worldwide handheld shipments down in the second quarter by 3.5 percent compared with the second quarter of 2001, dropping to 2.7 million units, according to Gartner. Analysts have said that buyers are waiting on handhelds that incorporate Palm's OS 5--released to developers in June--but many handheld company executives still see growth potential in the market for low-end devices.