Sony announces "division two" VAIO laptops

In an exclusive interview with PC Pro, Sony explains its company's aggressive new strategy to grow laptop sales

Tim Danton
15 Apr 2010

Sony is to launch a "division two" of VAIO laptops that are made and designed by other manufacturers.

In an exclusive interview with PC Pro, the deputy president of Sony VAIO’s Business Group announced a two-tier strategy for the company’s laptop division, with “division one” for the VAIO laptops designed and built by Sony, and a “division two” for VAIO models built by its partners.

We need a certain market share. And if we don’t have a certain market share, it’s tough to survive

Even though these “division two” laptops won’t be built by Sony, Ryosuke Akahane claimed that they would have a “taste of VAIO, the style of VAIO”. The laptops will still bear Sony's name, and the company will put the models through the same quality assurance tests as "division one" VAIOs before approving any third-party designs.

They will also include many of the features to be included in new models of Sony-made VAIOs, such as the Assist button – press this and a recovery centre will launch to help customers save and rescue data.

Akahane insists the new products will be of the same quality as existing VAIOs. “The quality criteria itself is no different between division number one and division number two.”

Instead the difference will be in the technology. “We will include new technology [such as the latest processors] in division number one first, and then we can learn and we can get the know-how, then we can transfer [the technology] to the products coming from division two.”

Two brands?

We asked Akahane if Sony had considered setting up a different brand in a similar way to Dell with its Studio and Inspiron lines, but he was definitive in his answer. “No. We had a discussion for that, but the conclusion is no. Making a new brand is an investment, it’s not efficient, and also for the customer we wanted to enhance the identity of VAIO more and more and for that having a different brand is not good.”

Akahane has set an informal target of ten million sales of VAIO laptops in 2010, rising from around 6.8 million in 2009. Explaining the need for this dramatic rise now, he explained: “We need a certain market share. And if we don’t have a certain market share, it’s tough to survive.” However, he ruled out buying a rival to boost Sony's sales in the immediate future.

So who is Sony targeting with its new strategy? “It’s more HP and Apple [than Acer]. We have been launching new technology and new products, and we believe we’ve made lots of innovation. We’ll continue with those challenges, and at the same time the network service is very important.”

The network service Akahane refers to is based on the PlayStation Network, Sony’s rival to Xbox Live. “In our case, we have more devices [than Apple] – such as TVs and PlayStation, and also we have to realise the synergy among those products.”

The example cited by Akahane was watching a movie: you download it on a TV but need to leave your home for work, and with a synched network service you could watch the rest of the movie from the exact point you stopped watching on your Sony Ericsson phone or VAIO laptop.

Akahane wouldn’t confirm when this service would become available, but we expect it to arrive late in 2010.

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