America Online (AOL) is understood to be negotiating with Sony about putting a stripped down version of its internet software onto palmtop PCs.
The move would build on AOL's existing relationship with Sony in the US and Canada, where Sony pre-installs AOL's online application in all of its Vaio microtower PCs and notebooks.
Although the proposed lite version would present information in a less graphics-intensive form than the full-blown version of AOL's application, it is expected that the key features of the service will not be changed.
Analysts said AOL had no choice but to go down the palmtop route. It already has an initiative in place, AOL Anywhere, which allows users to connect to any Web-based device.
Mike Welch, analyst at market research company Inteco, said: 'It would be a way for AOL to protect its installed base and bring new users onboard who want a mobile service and may also be tempted to switch to AOL on the desktop. With the likes of Dixons' Freeserve, the future is not certain for any online service, so it has to look out for opportunities.'
He added: 'AOL provides content, but what content would people want on the move, aside from email and Web browsing?'
An AOL representative declined to comment on its talks with Sony, but said: 'We are keen to deliver AOL to as many platforms as possible. AOL is graphics heavy, so looking at stripped down versions for handheld devices is an assumption anyone would make.'
Sony was unavailable to comment.
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