T-Series notebooks will have built-in wireless wide area network technology, using Cingular's EDGE network.
Stacy Cowley, IDG News Service
Sony will team with Cingular Wireless to release the first mass-market notebook PCs with built-in WWAN (wireless wide area network) access technology.
While traditional WLAN (wireless local area network) technology allows users to tap wireless connections when they're within range of a hotspot, WWAN technology enables a device to reach the Internet anywhere cellular coverage exists. Cingular estimates typical speeds on its EDGE (Enhanced Datarate for GSM Evolution) wireless data network at 70 kilobits per second to 135 kbps. It has EDGE coverage in 13,000 cities throughout the United States.
Sony's new VAIO T-Series notebooks, expected next month, will use Sony's "SmartWi" technology to toggle between WLAN, WWAN, and Bluetooth connections. "The idea is to give the user out-of-the-box wireless capability," said Mark Hanson, Sony's vice president of business development and product planning for VAIO of America.
Customers can take advantage of WWAN with add-on cards, but Sony is the first major PC maker to offer it as an integrated feature, according to Current Analysis analyst Sam Bhavnani. "What this does is really open the door for ubiquitous access," he said.
Bhavnani also sees the move as a significant competitive advance from a company that once led the way on technical innovation but has recently fallen behind its rivals. "Sony has totally been lagging behind the curve," he said. "For example, they were the last major notebook player to go wide-screen."
Sony will offer VAIO T-Series buyers a free month of Cingular EDGE service. The service's ongoing cost will be $80 per month for unlimited data access, or $50 per month for up to 50 mbps of data transfer.
The new notebooks will start at $2200 and weigh about 3 pounds. They include Intel's Pentium M Ultra Low Voltage processor, 512MB of memory, a 60GB hard drive, a 10.6-inch wide-screen display, and a DVD+/-RW drive.