November 9, 2004 3:08 PM PST

Will pocket-size Sony PC take on iPod?

Consumers in the United States are about to get a crack at a 1-pound Sony PC that doubles as a personal media player.

The consumer electronics giant unveiled the Vaio U for U.S. customers on Tuesday, touting a machine that's designed to be as much an entertainment hub as it is a full-fledged portable PC.


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The nearly pocketable machine, which weighs 1.2 pounds, is already on sale as the Vaio Type U in Japan.

The Vaio U's 5-inch SVGA, or 800-by-600-pixel resolution, touch screen stretches over a 6.6-inch wide, 4.3-inch high frame and can be used to display videos and pictures. The mini machine can also play music, and to that end, the company will bundle it with headphones and a remote control, as well as its SonicStage music software and photo and DVD-viewing applications. Buttons at one corner of the machine will enable users to rotate the screen's orientation and to zoom in and out.

Given that it boasts fairly typical notebook PC components--including a 1.1GHz Intel Pentium M 733 processor, 512MB of RAM, a 20GB, 1.8-inch hard drive, Wi-Fi and Microsoft's Windows XP Professional operating system--the Vaio U can also perform standard PC duties, such as sending e-mail. Consumers can also use it like a tablet, operating via its stylus, and taking down handwritten notes. Sony includes a fold-up keyboard for typing longer documents.

"The versatility (of the Vaio U) is that it has all the capabilities of a hard disk-based audio player, PDA-like functionality as well as full-fledged capability as a highly mobile PC," said Mike Abary, general manager for Vaio product marketing at Sony.

Thus, a buyer could treat it like a music player, a category that proved its popularity with the arrival of Apple Computer's iPod. Sony acknowledges that possibility, though Abary said "we are more primarily positioning it as a PC that's highly versatile and highly mobile."

The tiny machine will go on sale in December for about $2,000. That's a good deal more than any MP3 player, but it's competitive with other pint-size PCs, such as OQO's model 01.

Despite its meager weight, the Vaio U isn't likely to set sales records, according to analysts. Consumers typically opt for larger machines with bigger screens and price tags less than $1,500. Corporations are likely to show interest. Although they are often willing to spend more for lighter notebooks, they can be choosy as well. So-called ultraportable notebooks--machines weighing about 4 pounds or less--have historically constituted only a small percentage of overall notebook shipments.

Still, some of the same factors that could limit the Vaio U--size and weight--also give it cachet, which might rub off on other Sony products, said Stephen Baker, an analyst at The NPD Group. He said that in the past, Sony has gotten away from its focus on innovative products and "tried to go for (unit sales) volume" instead.

The Vaio U is "Sony doing what Sony does very well--coming out with something unique, different and pretty cool," Baker said. "The market for products like that is pretty limited, but Sony's ability to come out with products like (it) is important. It has to continue to show how cool and cutting-edge it can be...especially in notebooks."

16 comments

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Will pocket-size Sony PC take on iPod?
How misleading is that? How can a $1500 device be compared to an Ipod. They are two different devices be sold to two different markets. Every day there is a new headline claiming to be the next Ipod killer. At the very least have a correct headline
Posted by bbroxter (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
C|Net Hates Apple
That's all there is to it. Who can point me to an Apple related
article at this site that doesn't have something negative to say
about the good folks in Cupertino CA? Even when reporting on
their successes, the editors at C|Net consistently tinge their
message with some kind of FUD generating speculation pointing
to their impending doom. This device is in a whole other genre
of devices - not even a second cousin to the iPod...
Posted by (54 comments )
Reply Link Flag
no doubt...
that's something that's been obvious for years. it seems to me
that it is just eating them up that apple has been successful...i
mean, they just can't stand it. that's why they write such b.s fluff
as this story...

the worst thing is no one from they're organization responds to
public forums such as this. once i got an email stating that their
articles are opinion based, but i replied that the articles are not
presented that way, they're presented as news, and furthermore,
where are the pro-apple opinions?
Posted by dolfox (29 comments )
Link Flag
No way Sony
Why would I want another unit that can get infected by the latest
worm/virus/scriptkidde?? My iPod plays music, and backs up my
files, thats all I need.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
What kind of stupid question is that?
This Sony PC will probably cost 4 to 5 times the ipod.
Posted by IsLNdbOi (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Why compare it to iPod?
Why would you compare this new Sony device to an iPod? It
certainly is not designed to even be in the same category. It is
obviously not designed to compete with the iPod. We already
know that C|Net has a bias against Apple products and is always
looking for the "iPod killer", but this is a stretch.

Next headline: "Will new Ferrari beat the iPod?"

C'mon C|Net, get some journalistic integrity.
Posted by i,Jimbot (65 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not just biased, also incompetent
c|net is listing the related stock info for APPL instead of AAPL.
sheesh!
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Why is everything compared to iPod?
I'm with everyone else on this. Why is the product being
compared to the iPod and not similar products like Portable
Media Centers or even Pocket PCs? This is just the latest in a
number of articles here on c|net and elsewhere that I've seen
that compared some other very-loosely-related product to the
iPod. The headline should really be: "Will pocket-size Sony PC
take on Creative Labs Zen?" or something similar.
Posted by dejo (182 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Headline
Since you mention the headline...
1. This product has nothing to do with the iPod. Different
products, different usage.
2. The first paragraph more accurately describes the unit as
"near-pocket size". Hey CNET: cargo pants are out. This unit is
NOT pocket size.

I would read these articles at CNEt based solely on the merit of
the specific products. I don't know why so many have to use
iPods or Apple as a foil to bounce off of.
Posted by Greg Sparkman (82 comments )
Link Flag
What about durability?
If I owned one of these I would be constantly worried about it getting broken or stolen because it's so expensive. As a result, I'd probably have to have some kind of case for it, which would make it bulkier and less convenient to carry and use. That means that I might as well put up with a little more weight and size and buy a laptop. Especially since laptop prices seem to be coming down and you can now get a nice one for $800-$900.

I would have liked to have seen Sony include an integrated clam-shell case like my beloved Sony Clie NR70V has. I've had it for about two years now and it seems almost indestructible. The outside of it is a little scratched up, but it works great and I almost always have it with me because I can shove it in the back pocket of my pants or jeans.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Because iPod is a Buzz Word
Why compare it to iPod? Because iPod is a Buzz Word.

By using iPod's name in the title of the article, the author if bound to get more readers and more interest.

If you noticed, the article itself does not mention iPod at all. iPod is only mentioned in the title! The whole article is strickly about Sony.

iPod was only mentioned in the title to get more people to click through and read the article... plus, the article got many of its comments based on the title too.


Sony - Vaio U Plays MP3s and more...

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://allwaysmusic.modblog.com/" target="_newWindow">http://allwaysmusic.modblog.com/</a>
Posted by (59 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yeah, but...
...all the comments are complaining about bogus use of the iPod
name. Readers don't like to be played for chumps and CNET is
abusing readers by luring us to articles with bait and switch
tactics.
Posted by Greg Sparkman (82 comments )
Link Flag
Funny, though...
Check out ALL the manufacturers and pundits (like c|net) who
are screaming at end users "you want anything but an iPod,
don't you know?" Funny thing is, the end users already know
what they want and that's why they're buying iPods. The anti
iPod marketing and FUD about AAC and FairPlay just isn't
working and that's driving everyone else with their combined 8%
market share nuts. A music world dominated by Windows Media
assests scares everybody, especially the artists. Apple has a
"closed system" compared to Microsoft? ohmygod, you must be
joking. Mark my words; Microsoft would sit up five years after
attaining ubiquity and demand everyone repurchase their music
"licenses" all over again. If you're a distributor and want to
continue encoding with WMA, dig DEEEEEEEP into those pockets.
That's their history and that's their future. Run away from WMA.
Posted by HuggerMugger (26 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Way off base.
This device is $2,000. I can tell you that while I bought 3 iPods for $299.00 for my family, I would never spend $6,000. for three of these Sony units. Your comparision of this device as a competitor to iPod is way off base.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Actually, c/net is pro-iPod
I disagree with all the statements that c/net hates Apple and its iPod. I think it's the exact opposite. They seem to be so captivated by iPod that they see everything else in relation to it. See their iPod reviews, which are very favorable.

I do agree that iPod is often mentioned in order to get more readers for an article. Like any other media business, ratings do matter, especially in regard to advertising dollars. People love Apple and iPod, so articles about them generate interest. I surely read every article in regard to Apple, but I can't say the same about other companies and their lackluster products.
Posted by (61 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Vaio U
The Vaio U is quite cool, but too bad it's Windows based. I wonder it can run Linux
Posted by rshimizu12 (98 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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