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Sony announces "division two" VAIO laptops

Sony VAIO second division

By Tim Danton

Posted on 15 Apr 2010 at 15:28

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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User comments

God, I just hope they do 3D like the rest of Sony's new can't-miss product strategy.

By oshatner on 16 Apr 2010


Is it just me, or does this all sound rather bizarre? It's hardly as if most major laptop brands actually make everything with their name on it anyway - much of it is actually constructed by the big electronics companies in the far east.

It sounds like Sony is basically trying to license the brand, but is it a strong enough brand for this to be successful? Time will tell, I guess.

By davidbryant4 on 16 Apr 2010


An interesting strategy...

I might suggest however to work more closely with the global supply chain to lower overall costs and thus be able to price the VAIO notebooks at a more competitive price point. I understand it is difficult to make margin, however, you also need the WOW factor to influence the consumer decision to buy your product over the competitor.

It is great that Sony is starting to use outside CMs, but please make sure you monitor QA very carefully because many outside CMs tend to make quick judgments that may affect your overall product as they just want to deliver the product out the door fast.

By AH888 on 16 Apr 2010

First time I ever encounter this type of business practice.

I'm not sure if it's a step towards degrading or agrading. Clearly, it sounds a little unpractical since no one has ever done before. I hope they don't make crappy and unreliable prodcuts like their competitors did.

By skydiver1989 on 17 Apr 2010

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