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Sony unveils pair of Clie handhelds

One of two new devices, the PEG-T615C doubles as a venue for business applications and as a remote control for home entertainment systems.

Sony announced two new Palm-based handhelds on Tuesday, including a model designed to be as useful at work as it is at home.

The consumer electronics giant introduced the $399 PEG-T615C--which doubles as a venue for business applications and as a remote control for home entertainment systems--and the $199 PEG-S360. Both are upgrades to existing Clie devices.

The new Clie devices put added pressure on rivals Palm and Handspring to match Sony with innovations and competitive prices. All three handheld makers are licensees of the Palm operating system and have been in a price war since the middle of last year.

Palm and Handspring are targeting businesses and soon plan to offer new handhelds with wireless capabilities. Handspring, which reports earnings Tuesday, has said that its Treo communicators will be available this month. Palm has said that its wireless device, referred to as the i705 in filings with the Federal Communications Commission, will be out this early year.

Sony has tried to set itself apart from its competitors by developing features aimed at entertainment capabilities. The T615C is in keeping with that strategy.

The half-inch-thick, aluminum-clad T615C, due later this month, incorporates a universal remote control for televisions, VCRs and stereo components, making it similar to the slinky $250 Clie PEG-T415. But where that earlier device comes with a monochrome screen, the T615C will have a color screen with a 320-by-320-pixel resolution.

Sony's highest-end device, the Clie PEG-N760C, is also aimed at the entertainment market: It comes with a color screen and a built-in digital audio player.

The infrared remote-control feature on the T615C has a range of 15 feet.

"This pair of new devices balances Sony's strategy," IDC analyst Kevin Burden said. The T615C "pushes innovation with a color screen in a slim case and the remote control feature. And (the S360), while more staid, is an aggressive play for consumers looking for a good deal."

The T615C replaces the $350 PEG-N610C. The S360, due in February, will replace the entry-level PEG-S320.

Both of the upcoming devices feature 16MB of memory and a Memory Stick slot.