Sony took two of its newest Clié handheld computers to the USA this week, offering a distinctive clamshell design with an integrated thumbpad to the Palm OS-based products.

Sony, based in Tokyo, showed the PEG-NR70V and PEG-NR70 PDAs (personal digital assistants) in Japan earlier this month and has now taken them to the US market.

This could mean a European launch is close at hand.

Unlike most PDAs, the new Cliés have a clamshell design with two parts hinged together — a base that includes control buttons and a Qwerty thumbpad, and a display that can be flipped out.

Users can close the device for carrying and can also flip the screen right around and use the Clié like a traditional PDA, with the thumbpad covered up.

Using a thumbpad is becoming a normal thing for younger generations, research has shown.

Both models come with a 320x480, 3.8in display and built-in MP3 player. The higher-end PEG-NR70V also includes a digital camera.

The PDAs run version 4.1 of the Palm OS and use the Motorola 66MHz Dragonball Super VZ processor.

Expect to pay something in the region of between £400 and £500, if and when they hit Britain.