Sony announces Mylo

The US will be the first to get a taste of Sony’s first wifi communications gadget it says will allow users to chat, send text, browse the internet and listen to music.

Dubbed ‘Mylo’ for ‘My Life Online’, Sony’s device is around the size of a PSP and is designed specifically to work in wifi hotspots. Sony said the device will appeal to university students.

Mylo will go on sale in September and is expected to cost around $350 (£183.60). No details for a European launch were announced by the Japanese electronics manufacturer although it is expected to launch in Japan.

The consumer device also resembles a PSP, looking more like a PSP/Sidekick hybrid than a typical communications device. The Mylo relies entirely on wifi for its connectivity and contains no cell technology, Sony said. This, says John Delaney, principal analyst at Ovum, makes the device somewhat redundant.

“This just doesn’t hit any targets that I can see” Delaney said. “It’s predicated to outdoor use and unless there’s a hotspot there, it’s not going to be much use…. I simply cannot see which market this will appeal to.”

The Japanese firm has struggled to keep ground against the innovative might of Apple which is believed to be working on its own wifi designs. The Mylo is the first example of Sony taking the fight to Steve Jobs’ firm in the wifi arena. It has even gone to the trouble of christening its target audience ‘techno socialites’ and expects them to use the device to stay in touch using Instant Messaging systems – it only works with Yahoo, Skype or Google. Voip calls will only work with Skype, the firm said.

Again, Delaney is unimpressed. “Sony has partnered with Yahoo and Google on IM but AOL’s AIM is the leader in America by a large margin, so it doesn’t even hit that particular target market. But I don’t think it’s faire to say Sony has struggled to keep up with Apple. Look at how many Walkman devices it has sold with Ericsson. Sony competes with makers of all handheld gadgets, not just Apple.”

Browsing online is a must of course and Sony has employed the popular ‘other’ browser from the Macintosh platform, Opera. This light browser plays audio and video as well as providing an application that sends text.

The device comes with 1GB of Flash memory onboard and can be expanded to add up to 4 gigabytes of additional internal memory. A 4GB Memory Stick device is due for release this month for $170.

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