Regular readers will have seen the product reviews of some of Sony’s VAIO laptop computers. These were positioned by Sony at the premium end of the market and had specifications and features that were considered “out of he ordinary” as far as Windows-based computers were concerned. An example of this was a Sony VAIO Pro 13 laptop that had a display resolution that was better than the Apple MacBook Air that was issued at the time the VAIO was marketed and various reviews said that this computer could earn its keep as a photographer’s field computer. Similarly, I had seen a DJ in action use a Sony VAIO laptop computer rather than an Apple MacBook as a playout device.
As the bottom was falling out of the “regular-computer” market thanks to the cheaper mobile-platform tablets, Windows 8 and other issues in 2014, Sony sold off their VAIO computer division to an independent investment fund. This fund continued to sell a smaller product range of computers under the VAIO brand which used to be a “sub-brand” of Sony’s for this product class. This range, which was sold in Japan only, was tightly focused around a few premium ultraportable computers. People after this brand tended to “grey-import” the computers from Japan whether online or as part of a foray in to that country.
Now VAIO have released these computers in to the US market through an online storefront and the Microsoft Stores in that country. Here, they are selling high-end portable computers that are focused around the “made in Japan” ideal which is similar to the way that some parts of Western Europe like Scandinavia or the Germanic countries (West Germany, Austria or Switzerland) were seen through the 1960s to the 1980s when it came to consumer electronics and photographic equipment – a purveyor of finely-crafted premium equipment.
The first of these is a VAIO Z Canvas which is a 12.3” 2-in-1 with a wireless keyboard. The screen resolution is 2560×1704 and it uses an Intel Core i7 for horsepower and has up to 16Gb RAM and 256Gb SSD storage. This will be offered as a Signature Edition computer that comes out of the box with Microsoft Windows 10 and no bloatware on board. The expected price will be US$2199 which would make you think of it like purchasing a the computer equivalent of a B&O or Loewe TV.
There are plans for VAIO to issue some more of these computers to the US market, more so in the form of traditional laptops (hear here, VAIO Fit 15e) and some desktops perhaps of the “gaming-rig” or “all-in-one” ilk. Personally, if VAIO were to have their fingers in the traditional “bricks-and-mortar” pie, I would recommend that they follow what Bose and B&O have done where they either run their own stores in upper-class neighbourhoods or work the “store within a store” method where they set up shop in premium department stores.
What it is showing is that computer brands are finding that working within certain profitable niches such as performance computers (mobile workstations or gaming-grade laptops) or premium computer ranges is considered a way to survive. This is similar to how a few American and European AV names focused on premium-grade photographic, audio and video equipment when Asian companies took on the mass-market for this class of equipment through the latter part of the 20th century
Who knows if VAIO will return to Europe, Australia or New Zealand?