Sony Corp. of America and PC Financial Network, a unit of the Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette brokerage firm, plan to market a new online investment service that will work with personal digital assistants.
A new wave of the hand-held devices, made infamous by the misfortunes of Apple Computer's Newton MessagePad, will be unveiled this fall, and the partners are banking on busy investors to value the convenience and portability of PDAs.
The system, as yet unnamed, will enable investors to buy and sell stocks, retrieve account information and set the units to alert them to programmed triggers, such as major share-price changes or other unusual market activity.
"It's a great device for securities transactions because of the time value involved," said Blake Darcy, chief operating officer of PC Financial Network, Jersey City, N.J. "In the markets, being alerted to certain situations wherever you may be is very important if you want to make money."
The Sony deal marks PC Financial Network's fourth and perhaps most ambitious platform.
It has offered a similar desktop service on Prodigy since 1988, and last fall introduced Reality, a trading system software package through Reuters Money Network. PC Financial Network this fall also plans to offer screen-phone-based trading through Online Resources, McLean, Va.
"They're demonstrably the market leader in the world of online brokerage, for what I describe as the non-professional investor," said John Kelly, director of marketing at Sony Software, a Sony unit covering movies, music and multimedia. "With Reality and Prodigy, they've more or less created the market for online, do-it-yourself discount brokerage."
Sony Electronics will market the PDA hardware, similar to Motorola Corp.'s Envoy, and Sony Software will create a "personal intelligent communicator" system using an operating environment developed by General Magic.
The investment software initially will work only with Sony PDAs, expanding later to other PDA platforms.
Sony's PDA, available this fall, will offer only electronic messaging and home-shopping services at first; the trading service plans a second-quarter 1995 start-up. Initially, traders must use a modem and phone line to dial into a computer and make trades, but eventually, Sony plans a wireless model.
Investors will pay normal commissions to PC Financial Network, but otherwise will pay nothing to use the system except the cost of a local phone call to dial into its computers.
"They're not going to be hit with online service charges," Mr. Kelly said, since that would discourage usage.
It's unclear how aggressively Sony will price its PDA, but the trading software will probably be offered separately and packaged with the hardware.