In a deal potentially as seminal as the partnership between Microsoft and Intel in the nascent days of the PC, global giants Sony and AOL Time Warner announced an alliance to develop a networkable internet browser for consumer electronic products.

News of the deal was broken at the electronic industry’s annual pilgrimage to the Comdex computer show in Las Vegas. In his keynote speech, Sony president and chief operating officer Kunitake Ando said that the teaming of the titans was a key element in Sony's strategy to create open ubiquitous value networks that would enable personal computers and non-PC electronic devices to be seamlessly connected.

The deployment of widespread value networks would allow the sector to grow rapidly in coming years, he predicted, echoed by AOL Time Warner chairman Steve Case who voiced high ambitions for the alliance. “This is a long-term strategic relationship,” he said. “Convergence is the wave of the future and the future is not so far away.”

During his presentation, Ando demonstrated a network-compatible television, a prototype wristwatch terminal and a technology called ‘Feel’ that enables devices to recognise each other as they come into proximity.

“The ubiquitous value network concept is one where devices and products can seamlessly access the network and connect with each other at any time, from any place,” Ando explained. “As the broadband network society reaches a sophisticated form by the year 2005, we will establish a hardware platform where users will connect with each other and with Sony, creating a completely new lifestyle.”

Sony also announced plans to work with Finnish mobile phone company Nokia to develop open software allowing mobile handsets and other electronic devices to inter-connect and share content. This would not, however, be allowed to dilute competition between Nokia and the extant Sony/Ericsson mobile handset joint-venture.

News source: Financial Times