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Sony preps new Clie handhelds

The gadgets, which feature the latest version of the Palm OS, built-in cameras and digital audio players, will be released in early July, the company confirms.

Sony Electronics is stepping up its strategy of adding multimedia capabilities to its handheld line, introducing two upcoming Clie devices.

The consumer electronics giant on Monday confirmed that in early July it will release the gadgets, which feature a recent version of the Palm operating system, built-in cameras and digital audio players. The company is taking pre-orders for the devices on its SonyStyle Web site.

Sony has been aggressively promoting a multimedia strategy for its handheld line, as it looks to take advantage of its consumer electronics legacy. The company has been adding to its devices features such as digital audio players, cameras and color screens.

The two new Sony devices, the Clie PEG-NX80V and the Clie PEG-NX73V, use version 5.0 of the Palm OS and have a clam shell-style case similar to those of previous generations, including a swiveling screen so it can used as a tablet. But the company has made some modifications to the case design--adding application buttons beneath the screen, according to Sony's Web site.

Though the handheld market has been declining lately, Sony remains a significant player in the industry as it trades off with Hewlett-Packard for the No. 2 market share position behind leader Palm, according to research firm IDC. In the first quarter, Palm held the No. 1 position in the market with 36 percent, followed by HP, which regained the No. 2 spot from Sony. HP has about 18 percent of the market, and Sony has just more than 16 percent. Dell Computer moved up to the No. 4 spot, with 6.5 percent, from No. 11.

HP and Dell use Microsoft's Pocket PC 2002 operating system for handhelds, while Palm and Sony use Palm's OS. Next week, Microsoft is expected to release the latest version of its handheld operating system.

Sony's Clie PEG-NX80V costs $599.99 and comes with a 200MHz processor, 32MB of memory, a 1.3 mega-pixel camera, a digital audio player, a keyboard, and a color screen with a resolution of 320 pixels by 480 pixels.

The Clie PEG-NX73V costs $499.99 and comes with a 200MHz processor, 16MB of memory, a 310,000-pixel camera, a digital audio player, a keyboard, and a color screen with a resolution of 320 pixels by 480 pixels.