Portable player due in stores later this year.

Sony Corp's new portable audio player competing with Apple's iPod will be accompanied this year by another device which can play video and beam it to a TV, the Japanese company said on Friday.

The chief of Sony's Vaio computer and mobile products, Keiji Kimura, told Reuters he also expected to bring the audio version to Europe this year.

The world's biggest consumer electronics maker unveiled the new audio pocket player in Japan this week as part of an extended line-up of its Vaio computer products aimed at blurring the distinction between home entertainment and computing.

"Vaio pocket will be launched in Europe within this year," he said in an interview on the fringes of a global launch tour for the redesigned Vaio range. "As for the video version, we want to productize it as soon as possible. It's very near future. It will be earlier than (2005)."

Sony's new portable devices are key elements in the firm's drive to grab a chunk of the digital entertainment market that has so far been defined by Apple with its iTunes Music Store on the Internet and iPod portable jukebox that can store thousands of songs on a hard disk.

The iTunes Music Store is the most popular Internet music shop. It sold 70 million songs in its first year, accounting for the majority of music legally distributed over the Web.

Last week Sony opened its own Internet music store, Connect, in the United States, and will open European versions next month in Germany, France and the UK.

--Reuters

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