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Technofile: Sony's Gateway device pushes envelope on convergence

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(CNN) -- Loaded with enough video, music, and Internet features to make you never want to leave the couch and portable enough so that you can, the Sony AV/IT Gateway is Sony's answer to wireless convergence.

The long-awaited devices are known as Web pads -- but in Japan, where Sony first released the product, it's also known as the Airboard. Whatever you choose to call it, this device can consolidate all of your music, video, Internet, and digital needs onto one 10.4 inch LCD display.

The wireless video device is something that brings your computer and your television to you, says Stewart Wolpin, co-founder of etown.com

"Gateway allows you to watch satellite television, watch a DVD, surf the Web, send and receive e-mail, or look at digital pictures on a photo album that is loaded onto a memory stick," Wolpin said.

Sony, which calls its vision "AV/IT Convergence" for the intersection of audio-visual products and information technology, is focusing on a number of gateway products, which will anchor their strategy of a networked home. Sony predicts users will be able to communicate seamlessly with all digital electronics and appliances from virtually anywhere in your house.

The Airboard consists of a wireless 10.4 inch LCD display and a base station with a TV antenna and wireless modem. The Web pad can be used as a portable entertainment center -- but it can also be used as a remote control for other household electronics, such as a CD player or DVD player, that have been plugged into the base station.

The LCD wireless display operates on a touch screen with on which you use a stylus to select different options much like a personal digital assistant. For example, walking from room to room, you can navigate the Web and send e-mail.

Want to multi-task? The Airboard will allow "picture-in-picture" simultaneous viewing of both Internet and TV content. During commercials, you can browse through digital images, such as photographs, stored on a Sony Memory Stick.

While the device is designed as an all-in-one remote control and Internet appliance to connect computers, stereos, DVD players, and televisions, Sony says it could also expand to include game consoles, personal digital assistants, camcorders, telephones, and other mobile devices.

But perhaps what the Sony Gateway offers to consumers will be more freedom in how they access and interact with information.

Already on shelves in Japan and selling for around $1,500, the Gateway AV/IT will come to the United States later this year.



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