Sony will begin selling its first netbook computer next month - the Sony VAIO Mini W - and in doing so will enter the only sector of the PC market showing significant growth.
The VAIO Mini W Series is based around a 1.66GHz Intel Atom N280 processor, the same processor used in many other netbooks. (Get netbook reviews here.)
Like other netbooks the Vaio W has a 10.1in screen, but its display has a resolution of 1,366x768 pixels rather than the more common 1,024x600 pixels. That means more of a website can be fitted on to the screen, so the user will have to scroll less, the company said at a launch event in Tokyo on Tuesday.
Sony is planning to use the higher resolution as one of the key differentiators between the VAIO W and other computers on the market. It will also promote the machine's touch panel, which is about the same size as that found on conventional laptops.
In Japan it will cost around ¥60,000 (£389), which is roughly in line with netbooks from other Japanese vendors such as Toshiba and Fujitsu but more expensive than machines from foreign companies, such as Dell and Acer. It will go on sale in the UK, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain and Russia from August, and be available via Sony's online shop. North American launch details have not yet been announced.
The PC industry witnessed a record decline in the first quarter of this year as grim economic conditions caused many consumers and companies to postpone nonessential purchases. Global shipments fell by 8 percent against the same period of 2008, led by a sharp decline in demand for desktop PCs, according to iSuppli. The mobile segment saw 10 percent growth thanks largely to demand for netbook PCs.
Sony came close to launching a netbook earlier this year when it put the Sony Vaio P-series on sale. The computer is smaller than many netbooks but runs Windows Vista on the more powerful of Intel's Atom processors. Sony was keen to distance the VAIO P and its higher price from the netbook market.
The Vaio W measures 27cm by 18cm by 2.7cm. It runs Windows XP, comes with 1GB of memory, a 160GB hard-disk drive, two USB ports, 802.11a/b/g wireless LAN and Bluetooth. There's a camera above the display and a built-in memory card reader.