SAN FRANCISCO -- Sony Corp., which late last year began selling the first hand-held CD-ROM player, plans to release a second, more powerful device in the United States this fall that will play more advanced CD-ROM XA disks.
Microsoft said it has agreed to provide Sony with multimedia software, based on its multimedia viewer for the Windows environment, to control the player.
It marks Microsoft's entry into the world of digital consumer electronics, an emerging market where it will face stiff competition from Apple Computer, which already has a partnership with Sony and is pursuing other deals with Japanese consumer electronics firms.
Sony's portable player will be about the size of a hardcover book and weigh two pounds, said Tak Sugiyama, manager of Sony's multimedia project.
The player will have a full "QWERTY"-style keyboard for users to enter commands and a 4.5-inch black-and-white LCD screen that can display text and images in seven shades of gray.
It will have both a video jack to connect it to a television set and a headphone jack to provide stereo sound to the user.
At the device's heart will be an NEC V20 microprocessor running MS-DOS 3.21 with 640 kilobytes of memory, making the device in essence a miniature IBM PC XT computer.
Sony didn't name a price for the device, but published reports indicate the company would sell it for less than $1,000.
The device might wind up squeezing out the older product, the Data Discman, even before that product gains much momentum.
Unlike U.S. companies, Japanese consumer electronics companies often develop and market several versions of a particular product in order to discover what mix of features is most likely to attract buyers.
The device will require publishers to provide their programs on special CD-ROM XA disks, which feature improved storage of digital audio, instead of the existing CD-ROM format.
At least one company, InterOptica Publishing Ltd. of Hong Kong, said it will publish a travel guide of the United States and Canada for the Sony player.