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CES: Sony's Dash for apps gold

January 8, 2010 | 12:02 pm

Sony Dash, applications, Chumby The stampede toward 3-D may be the headline of this year's Consumer Electronics Show, but announcements about apps have provided a seemingly relentless drumbeat. Apps on TV, apps in cars, apps in your pocket. ... Anyway, my choice as the show's official apps mascot would be Sony's Dash Personal Internet Viewer, a wedge-shaped box with a 7-inch touch screen that runs, well, apps. Sony promises thousands of these free software widgets, including some that are utilitarian (an alarm clock, an e-mail reader), some devoted to entertainment (video streams and games) and some that are just silly (a looped video of a dog licking the screen from the inside). 

Calling it a "personal Internet viewer" is a little misleading because the Dash isn't suited for general Web browsing. Its apps can deliver many of the quotidian resources of the Internet, though, providing such vitals as news, traffic information, recipes and updates from your eBay watch list.

The initial source of the apps is Chumby, but Sony's Katie O'Brien said the company plans to open the Dash platform to third-party app developers. (Hold your horses -- there's no software development kit yet.) Sony will still retain veto power over the apps, O'Brien said, but the company doesn't plan to manage the platform with an iron fist.

At $200, the Dash seems a little pricey. It's barely cheaper than a netbook, and it offers little of a netbook's power. But it does include wireless networking and free access to Sony's Bravia Internet Video streaming platform, which supplies YouTube, Pandora personalized online radio, and Crackle's mix of online originals and videos from the Sony Pictures vault. So it has that working for it. For those who like having key Web resources available at the touch of a button but don't want to keep a computer running 24/7, the Dash may be the solution. Hey, even Facebook addicts don't need a computer in every room.

-- Jon Healey

Healey writes editorials for The Times' Opinion Manufacturing Division. Follow him on Twitter: @jcahealey