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Wed, May 17, 2006 - Page 10 News List

Sony launches paperback-sized mobile PC

COMPACT PC The Vaio type U targets users who want portable devices that offer more powerful features and functions than a smart phone

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A model displays Japanese electronics giant Sony's paperback book-sized notebook PC, the Vaio type U, which is equipped with an Intel Core Solo U1300 processor, a 4.5-inch wide LCD and a sliding keyboard, at a Tokyo hotel yesterday.

PHOTO: AFP

Sony Corp, the world's second-biggest consumer electronics maker, introduced a mobile personal computer about the size of a paperback book, joining Samsung Electronics Co and Microsoft Corp to create a market for compact notebooks.

The Vaio type U goes on sale on May 27 in Japan and retails for ¥170,000 (US$1,500), the Tokyo-based company said at a briefing yesterday. The computer, which comes with a 30-gigabyte hard drive, weighs about the same as a 428g bottle of juice.

Sony is targeting users who want portable devices that are more powerful than mobile phones and that, like a personal computer, can be used to surf the Internet, e-mail, bank online and perform other functions on the move.

Samsung's Q1 compact, which was unveiled in March, has suffered negative reviews over its US$1,100 price tag, battery life and software flaws.

"There is an increasing number of people who are using smart phones and mobile phones, but the functions are limited," said Yoshihisa Ishida, head of Sony's Vaio business. "We want to provide something that can fulfill those needs."

Microsoft, which is promoting the "ultra-mobile PC," is betting users may buy the new device as a second or third machine, expanding the company's foothold.

Samsung's Q1 was criticized for shortcomings that reviewers said render the machine almost unusable, according to reviewers Walter Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal and David Pogue of the New York Times.

Sony will introduce another mobile PC late next month that will use NAND flash memory chips to store data, instead of a hard drive. NAND flash memory chips are faster, lighter and more shock resistant than hard disk drives used to store data on portable computers.

Separately, Sony yesterday unveiled a Vaio notebook PC and desktop PC with a Blu-ray high-definition DVD drive, which allows the playback of discs that store at least five times more data than conventional DVDs.

Samsung, based in Suwon, South Korea, is selling the ultra-mobile PCs in the US and Europe, and Founder Technology Group Corp, the No. 4 seller of PCs in China, will sell them in China. Starting next month, Asustek Computer Inc (華碩電腦) of Taiwan will sell the machines in the US and Europe.

Microsoft on April 14 began selling in Japan an ultra-mobile PC that can be operated by touching its liquid-crystal display screen, and is testing the computer at Japanese schools to attract young users.

The Microsoft PC is called the SmartCaddie and is made by PBJ Inc, a Tokyo-based maker of touch panels. It sells for ¥99,800, comes with a 40-gigabyte hard disk drive and weighs 860g, about half as much as a conventional notebook.

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