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Sony beefs up consumer PCs

With a slew of new products, including 300-MHz multimedia desktops, Sony is selling new PCs to spur sales of other peripherals.

Sony Electronics introduced a slew of new products today, including consumer PCs featuring the 300-MHz MMX Pentium II processor and advanced 3D graphics and audio, along with new peripherals such as video cameras.

The company continues to pursue its strategy of selling VAIO (Video Audio Integrated Operation) PCs mainly as a means to spur sales of other Sony-branded peripheral products, such as cameras and printers, which come in the same charcoal-gray casing.

Sony's new PCs come with preloaded software that makes it easier to use Sony-branded audio-visual equipment such as video and movie cameras with Sony PCs. At the same time, Sony is offering a new desktop video camera for videoconferencing or taking still photos.

A color multifunction printer-fax-copier-scanner that doesn't need to be setup or configured by the user when used with a Sony computer is now available nationwide, the company said.

The PCV-220 and PCV-240 desktop computers feature either a 266- or a 300-MHz Pentium II processor, a 6.4GB hard disk drive, a 24X CD-ROM drive, a 100MB Zip drive, and an AGP-compliant 3D graphics accelerator. AGP enables computers to handle high-end 3D graphics at a relatively low cost by storing large amounts of graphics data in a system's less-expensive main memory instead of higher-cost video memory.

The computers also include PCI-based audio chips. Audio used in personal computers has mostly been based on older 16-bit ISA (Industry Standard Architecture) technology. As consumers begin to expect more advanced 3D surround-sound technology like that found in high-end consumer electronics, PC makers must move to the 32-bit PCI bus technology.

According to Sony, the new computers will be available in October with an estimated street price of $2,699 for the PCV-220 and $3,299 for the PCV-240. A model with 233-MHz Pentium II processor, a 4.3GB hard drive, a 24X CD-ROM drive, and a 100MB Zip drive is expected to be priced at $2,399.

The CCD-Z5 camera will sell for $150 later this month and the IJP-V100 VAIO All-in-One Printer is currently selling for $599.

Sony's VAIO PCs to date have failed to pose a serious challenge to sales of Compaq or Packard Bell in the retail market, even though the company seems to have all the ingredients to be a serious contender.

As reported by CNET's NEWS.COM last week, Sony said that it intends to sell consumer PC desktops, laptops, and peripherals direct from its Web site, by phone, and by mail in an effort to supplement sales in the retail channels.