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Commentary: Clie is a harbinger of good things to come

Sony will likely follow this PDA with a more polished version, which will sport increased multimedia, telephony and wireless photo capabilities, sometime next year.

By Ken Dulaney, Gartner Analyst

With the launch of the Clie last night, Sony has re-entered the personal digital assistant (PDA) market.

Sony is doing so using

See news story:
Sony launches much-anticipated Palm device
Palm's mainstream operating system, which gives the device a rich set of applications that MagicLink--Sony's previous attempt at a PDA--lacked when it was introduced several years ago. However, the packaging and features of the Clie are below expectations for Sony, a company with a rich history of innovative design.

It is likely that Sony rushed something to market to establish its presence in the PDA market and to meet the Christmas selling season. Sony will likely follow this model with a more polished version sometime next year.

The Clie supports a good number of peripherals via its Memory Stick expansion strategy and features Sony's trademark thumbwheel. The thumbwheel enables a person to scroll down, though it is less effective for scrolling up. The Clie does not have a color display--an unusual move from a company that concentrates so heavily in the multimedia space. Given Sony's retail focus and the product's insufficient differentiation from Palm and Handspring handhelds, Gartner does not believe that the Clie is appropriate for businesses to purchases at this time.

Gartner expects that Sony's next round of PDAs will be much stronger. Sony will likely improve the styling and add much more than color. Future versions will likely sport increased multimedia, telephony and wireless photo capabilities. Despite Sony's prowess with marketing consumer electronics, the Clie will likely make limited progress in the PDA market until Sony gets the design just right.

Nevertheless, the introduction of the Clie eventually will benefit the market all around. Sony's marketing ability will attract consumer attention. And the new competition will force all Palm operating system PDA vendors--Handspring, TRG, Nokia, Palm and Sony--to develop new features and to differentiate their products. Thus, the goods news about the Clie is what will follow.

(For related commentary on Palm- and Windows CE-based devices, see TechRepublic.com--free registration required.)

Entire contents, Copyright © 2000 Gartner Group, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.