Confirming reports from earlier in the week, Sony has announced plans to sell off its VAIO computer division to a Japanese investment fund. Japan Industrial Partners (JIP) will take control of the operation for an undisclosed fee, and Sony will "cease planning, design and development of PC products." For a variety of reasons "including the drastic changes in the global PC industry," Sony says "the optimal solution is to concentrate its mobile product lineup on smartphones and tablets and to transfer its PC business to a new company."

Sony blames "drastic changes in the global PC industry"

The deal is expected to be completed by the end of July, and JIP's new company will initially focus on selling VAIO-branded computers in Japan; it plans to hire between 250 and 300 Sony employees for the venture. Sony is investing 5 percent of the new company's capital.

VAIO, a brand which has variously stood for Video Audio Integrated Operation and Visual Audio Intelligent Organizer, was introduced in 1996 with the PCV desktop line. Sony has expanded it through the years to encompass wild designs like the tiny VAIO P and entries in the ill-fated UMPC category, as well as more recent products like the VAIO Pro ultrabook and VAIO Tap hybrid.

Although the unit had been losing money amid a wider slump in the PC market, VAIO has always been associated with high-end design, and the line counted Steve Jobs among its admirers. A major manufacturer selling off its Windows PC business the week of Satya Nadella's unveiling as Microsoft CEO serves as a worrying indictment of the industry's health.