June 10, 2003 11:57 AM PDT

Sony plugs TV into Vaio notebooks

Sony Electronics bumped up the high-end features in its Vaio notebook line, betting that jazzed-up multimedia and wireless will draw buyers and help revive its flagging PC fortunes.

The consumer electronics company announced Tuesday that two Vaio notebook computers will debut next month as part of its summer line. One, the Vaio PCG-GRT190G, comes with digital video recording capabilities that so far have been restricted to desktops, while the other, the Vaio PCG-TR1A, packs Intel's Centrino wireless networking technology into a case the size of a hardback book.

The additions to the Vaio laptop family come of the heels of Sony's introduction of desktop PCs for the summer sales season.

Sony is looking to stock its models with high-end features--a strategy that allowed it to establish itself early on as a significant player in the PC market. It has seen its PC business slide lately, however, shipping 790,000 PC units in the fourth quarter of 2002, down from 1.03 million during the same period the year before, according to research firm IDC. With the new models, Sony is sticking to its high-end strategy and betting that it will revive its fortunes.

IDC analyst Alan Promisel said that the Japanese company is turning things around, especially in the notebook market.

"Sony has been able to take back some share in the U.S. notebook market recently, by virtue of incorporating more high-demand, consumer-centric technologies in their PCs," said Promisel.

Digital video recording (DVR) is one of the features that Sony hopes will draw consumers to its laptops. The company's Giga Pocket DVR technology, which allows people to pause and record live TV programming onto a hard drive for future playback, has been limited to Vaio desktop models only. But Sony is now making the feature available in its new Vaio PCG-GRT190G notebook, which also comes with a 16.1-inch active-matrix display and a dual-format DVD+/-RW drive.

The model also comes with a 2.8GHz Pentium 4 desktop chip, 512MB of memory, a 60GB hard drive and software for photo, music and video editing. It is expected to sell for $2,500.

Sony's other new notebook, the $2,000 Vaio PCG-TR1A, puts Intel's Centrino wireless networking package into a diminutive, 3.1-pound case. The portable computer comes with a 900MHz Centrino processor, 512MB of memory, a 30GB hard drive, an integrated camera and a DVD/CD-RW drive.

Other PC makers are also taking a high-end approach. Toshiba added DVR capabilities to its notebook line when earlier this month, it launched its first Media Center PC, the $2,699 Satellite 5205, in the United States. The notebook includes a TV tuner, a DVD burner, a 15-inch display, a 2.4GHz Pentium 4-M processor, 512MB of memory and a 60GB hard drive. The notebook uses Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center edition software.

 

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