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Friday, May 13, 2005
Sony, Cingular Roll Out New Wireless Laptop

Sony Corp. on Tuesday introduced the first mass-market laptop with built-in cellular technology for accessing the Internet over a wireless connection.

The new Vaio T350 notebook, with list prices starting at $2,199, is equipped with an internal modem based on the EDGE technology deployed across Cingular Wireless' national network.

While many cell companies in other countries offer EDGE service, the Sony laptops are only configured to connect through an account with Cingular, which is owned by SBC Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp.

Weighing about 3 pounds without the power adapter, the new Vaios also offer short-range wireless capabilities using Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technologies. A special dashboard lets users toggle between the different wireless options.

Other features include a built-in optical drive that can burn DVDs and CDs.

The Vaio T350 cannot connect with the much speedier UMTS technology that Cingular offers in six U.S. cities and plans to roll out nationally this year and next. Users would either need to continue to use the EDGE network or purchase an external UMTS card for the computer.

EDGE offers connection speeds about twice as fast as a dial-up modem. Cingular says the version of UMTS it is deploying transmits data at an average rate of between 400 and 700 kilobits per second -- on par with entry-level broadband over a DSL or cable TV line as well as the EV-DO service being deployed by Verizon Wireless .

Sony said it is interested in deploying laptops with the UMTS technology but that no decision has been made.

As part of the relationship, Sony is selling Cingular's data plans to customers who buy the new laptops.

The data plans from Cingular are priced at $80 a month for unlimited national access or $50 for 50 megabits worth of data usage per month. Sony is offering a free month for users who sign a one-year contract and two free months with a two-year contract.

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