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Sony preps OS for network appliances

Sony Electronics is experimenting with a new operating system for running network appliances, a kind of stripped-down PC that links consumers to the Internet similar to Oracle's much-discussed Network Computer.

Sony Electronics is experimenting with a new operating system for running network appliances, a kind of stripped-down PC that links consumers to the Internet similar to Oracle's much-discussed Network Computer.

The operating system--apparently based on its Apertos OS, which has been in development for several years--is still deep in the research and development stages, according to Sony's U.S. representatives. But the project is a reflection of the Japanese company's deep interest in what it believes is an eventual convergence of the PC and consumer electronics industries, an interest that may ultimately pit the company against both Sun Microsystems and Oracle.

Sun is working to turn its Java programming language into an operating system for this new breed of devices, and Oracle has already unveiled the NCOS that will drive its Network Computers. And Microsoft has a variant of its Windows for running network appliances, if and when they ever become popular.

With Sony, Microsoft, Sun and Oracle feverishly working on hardware and software platforms, a standards war for network appliances might not be too far off.

"It won't do much good if everyone's making their own OS. It'll be a real mess for the next few years," said Stan Lepeak, program director of the META Group market research firm. Lepeak believes that Sony has as good a chance as any other vendor to win such a battle.

Sony is already moving toward the PC marketplace. In partnership with Intel, the company is designing motherboards for a PC designed to exploit new video and audio technology, according to Brian Levine, head of public relations for Sony.

Slated for a fall rollout in the United States, the Sony PC will run the Windows operating system. The company has not yet set pricing for the PC.

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