Sony Planning “Division Two” Vaio Notebooks

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In an announcement that has surprised many industry watchers, Ryosuke Akahane, the deputy president of Sony’s Vaio busienss group, said in an interview with the UK’s PCPro that the company is working to roll out a two-tier strategy for its Vaio notebook line. “Division one” will be what the Vaio has been up to now: notebook computer designed and built by Sony. “Division two” will be Vaio notebooks designed and built by other companies.

“Division two” notebooks will still carry the Sony name and Vaio brand; Akahane noted that the notebooks would still fit into the Vaio line stylistically, and all third-party designs would have to be approved by Sony. Akahane said that the quality level of the third-party Vaios would be no different from Sony’s own Vaio line, but that Sony’s own Vaios would be the first to introduce new technologies, and those would eventually trickle down to “division two” partners.

The “division two” Vaios would seem to be Sony’s bid for the mid-range to low-end of the PC market, enabling Sony to focus on creating and engineering its top-flight machines, while leaving the lower-margin mass-market systems to its partners. Normally when companies decide to make new models to focus on different market segments, they spin off a separate brand to avoid consumer confusion, but Sony apparently considers that idea inefficient.

Akahane didn’t offer any timetable for when third-party Vaios might start reaching consumers, or whether the lines would initially be targeted at particular markets, such as Europe, North America, or Japan.

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