The Vaio VGN-T350 comes with an integrated cellular module that can connect to Cingular's network. The service costs $79.95 a month for unlimited use, but it obviates the need to seek out an available hot spot to connect to the Internet. WiMax technology one day will likely provide similar blanket coverage, but it will take some time to build a WiMax network.
Consumers can also opt to pay $49.95 a month for 50MB of data a month. A switch lets users alternate from Wi-Fi to cellular connections to conserve cellular time.
Notebook manufacturers have offered cellular service through add-on cards, but not many have integrated it into their products. By coming out with this feature before most of its competitors, Sony is essentially trying to reassert its position in the notebook market. The company surged in 2002 on the strength of its notebook portfolio, but subsequently lost ground to competitors such as Acer.
"Sony has somewhat slipped of late," said Sam Bhavnani, an analyst at Current Analysis. "They completely missed the boat on wide-screen notebooks. With this, they are somewhat back on the cutting edge."
The ultraportable notebook is expected to go on sale in June for an estimated $2,200. It weighs about 3 pounds and comes in silver or burgundy.