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Sony extends digital camera support

The consumer electronics maker is offering free diagnosis and repair for a popular digital camera model, after some customers complained that it has a shorter-than-expected battery life.

Sony Electronics is offering free diagnosis and repair for a popular digital camera model, after some customers complained that the gadget has a shorter-than-expected battery life.

The consumer electronics giant said Wednesday that dust and oxidation on the external power port of the Cyber-shot DSC-P1 is leading to longer recharge and shorter battery times. The company will provide free diagnosis and repair for the camera, an AC adapter and a battery pack until April 2004, and has extended the warranty of the device to one year after the repair date. Camera owners will have to send the camera to a repair center, and once it is fixed, it will be returned, according to a company representative.

Battery life problems occur under certain conditions and only after a long period of time, so Sony expects just a fraction of camera owners to be affected. Approximately 500,000 units of the model have been sold, according to industry estimates.

Although Sony stopped selling the 3-megapixel camera in Sept. 2001, offering additional support makes sense, said Chris Chute, an analyst at research firm IDC.

"Sony customers are generally willing to pay more for quality, and they are likely to be a repeat buyer, so it makes sense to take care of them," he said.

Chute added that the diminutive Cyber-shot DSC-P1 helped to start a number of trends in the industry, such as small designs and silver cases.

The model also helped Sony to take over the top market share spot from Olympus two years ago. Since then, Sony has maintained the No. 1 spot in the worldwide digital camera market, with Olympus in the No. 2 spot, followed by Canon. Sony shipped 5.5 million units in 2002, according to IDC.

The Cyber-shot DSC-P1 came out in late 2000 and was one of the more popular models in Sony's portfolio. The company has based several other models on the same design.