Handheld personal digital assistant makers better get their gloves on, because the Japanese giant, Sony, will be aiming to deliver a knock out blow when it brings to market its first highly-touted PDA later this year.

Little had been known until yesterday about Sony's plan for the hotly contested handheld market, but some of those questions were answered when the company showcased its first offering. First off, don't expect a Palm clone.

Despite the fact the PDA runs the Palm operating system, its design and functions take a noticeable departure from other Palm products. The yet-to-be-named device, for example, 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 seamlessly integrate with dozens of other devices that use the same storage technology.

In addition, the Sony PDA is narrower and thinner than other Palm handhelds. 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 also is considering adopting the Bluetooth short-range wireless specification.

Sony has not set a price but says the PDA will be available this autumn with both colour and monochrome display options.