Sony is set to enter the handheld wars when it releases its first handheld PDA later this year.

Sony showcased its handheld product yesterday, revealing, for the first time, that its PDA runs on the Palm OS. Despite this, its design and functions offer notable differences between it and the original Palm.

The yet-to-be-named device, will offer a JogDial control that allows an owner to scroll through menu choices and navigate the screen with one hand. The PDA will also support Sony's Memory Stick, allowing it to integrate with dozens of other devices that use the same storage technology.

Small The Sony PDA is also narrower and thinner than other Palm handhelds and weighs around 150gms. There is no wireless component to the device yet, says Kevin J Mizuhara, marketing manager for Sony's software and peripheral products personal network solutions company. But he says Sony is in talks with a number of telecommunications companies, and is considering adopting the Bluetooth short-range wireless specification.

The price has not been announced yet, but the PDA will enter the market this autumn, with both colour and monochrome display options available. Palm currently dominates the PDA market, IDC attributes about 75 per cent of sales to Palm. Experts say Sony’s adoption of the Palm OS will strengthen Palm’s position over that of Microsoft, whose Pocket PC only has ten per cent of the market. Handspring’s Visor controls only 2.3 per cent of the market.

Mizuhara says Sony chose the Palm OS because it has better third-party support than the Pocket PC and is easier to use.