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Sony Corp. will begin online sales of home appliances for the domestic market by the end of March, the major electronics manufacturer announced Tuesday. It will be the first time a major Japanese electronics maker has sold home appliances directly to consumers over the Internet. Japanese electric appliance makers are selling computers and related equipment over the Internet but usually sell appliances through their own distribution networks. Last week, Sony Corp. and affiliate Sony Marketing (Japan) Inc. jointly established Sony Style.com Japan Inc. to sell various Sony products on a Web site called Sony Style. The 50-50 venture is capitalized at 400 million yen and staffed by about 30 employees. The venture will initially sell Vaio personal computers and peripheral equipment before moving on to other products, such as digital cameras and music-related products, by the end of March. The new firm will use the Internet service to construct a customer database that will be used to develop its marketing strategies, which will include e-mail and advertising. Consumers will also be able to access Sony Style via mobile phones using services such as i-mode, provided by NTT Mobile Communications Network. The move may be a way for Sony to make up for its small retail presence. With about 2,000 affiliated stores nationwide, Sony is a dwarf among other home electronics makers. Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., for example, has 20,000 stores.

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