Sony Unplugs with Mylo Communicator

Sony Unplugs with Mylo Communicator

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Written By Eric Sandler

By Wi-Fi Planet Staff

August 09, 2006

Pocketable device is reminiscent of the PSP — but instead of games, it mobilizes IM, VoIP, e-mail and audio through Wi-Fi.

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Sony launched a search service called MYLO for its ill-fated Clie PDAs way back in September 2001. Nostalgia aside, neither the search service nor the Clie has been brought back with the re-introduction of the Mylo name today. Mylo stands for “my life online,” and it is now a Wi-Fi-based personal communicator that looks vaguely like Sony’s PlayStation Portable.

The new phone-sized handheld doesn’t play games, however. Instead, Mylo uses open Wi-Fi (802.11b) networks to send and receive instant messages via Google Talk, Skype or Yahoo! Messenger accounts – all free, no monthly fees involved. However, it glaringly omits the most popular IM client of all, AIM from AOL, as well as MSN.

It can also handle voice over IP calls using Skype — and Skype is allowing calls over the SkypeOut service to any phone in the U.S. or Canada for free (usually, it’s only free from Skype user to Skype user), at least for a while, after which you’ll just pay for SkypeOut minutes.

The Mylo has a 2.4-inch color screen for browsing JPEG photos, reading e-mails (using Yahoo! Mail or Gmail), Web surfing (using the Opera browser, also featured in the Nintendo DS), and watching movies in MPEG-4 format. It’s an MP3/WMA player (via a built-in speaker or headphones), and will play the ATRAC audio format that Sony likes but no one else does. That 1GB of flash memory will probably fill up fast, but you can add more with Memory Sticks — up to 5 GB.
Mylo’s QWERTY thumb-keyboard is revealed when the top of the handheld slides upward. Put it close to another Mylo, and they seek each other out for an ad-hoc Wi-Fi connection so you can IM or share music and photos.

The device comes in black or white, and has a database provided by JiWire of 20,000+ hotspots in the United States that you can use to get Mylo online. JiWire even custom-built the interface, a first for the company.

The battery supposedly runs for 45 hours of music playback, seven hours when online, or three hours when talking with Skype. Microphone, headphones, USB cable and a neoprene case are all included. All that (but no camera?!) for $350 at SonyStyle and retail dealers starting in September.

Mylo is certainly not the first device in its category. There’s also Nokia’s 770 mini Wi-Fi, for example. Messaging and VoIP are central to Nokia’s handheld as well.

Nokia 770

The 770, unlike Mylo, has no keyboard, relying instead on a touchscreen for input. And it is larger. The 770, which weighs 8.3 ounces (230 grams), measures a less pocketable 5.1 x 3.1 x 0.75 inches (141 x 79 x 19 millimeters) than Mylo’s 4.9 x 0.97 x 2.5 inches (123 x 23.9 x 63 millimeters) and 5.3 ounces (150 grams).

Nokia’s device is also a more powerful and full-featured device that has functionality beyond just being a communicator, as one blogger points out.

Sony has T-Mobile’s Sidekick in its sights as well. The carrier recently launched the most recent version of the popular thumb-keyboard smartphone for the young and hip. The Sidekick 3 — as with past models — has the same IM and e-mail focus as Mylo, but not Wi-Fi. Instead, it’s a cell phone, offering users access to the Internet through a cellular connection.

Sidekick 3

Mylo is Sony’s second recent stab at a handheld in as many months for the American market, after being gone from the scene for more than two years since the demise of the Palm-based Clie line. As with the Mylo, the VAIO UX Micro PC, introduced in June, isn’t your typical PDA.

The VAIO UX Micro PC is a full-fledged PC that runs on the Windows XP platform and not Windows Mobile. It has a retractable QWERTY thumb-keyboard, and is a bit larger than the usual handheld, but much smaller than the new ultra-mobile PC (UMPC) tablets Microsoft and its partners have been touting.              

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