VAIO computers are returning to US shores, with the first product built under Sony's former PC brand scheduled to go on sale in October this year. Sony sold off the unprofitable VAIO business to a Japanese investment fund in February last year, with the new owners (Japan Industrial Partners or JIP) choosing to focus initially on the domestic market. Now, the independent VAIO Corp says it wants to start selling internationally again, and has picked the United States and Brazil as the first markets to target outside of Japan.
Targeting Mac users and creative professionals
Rather than trying to achieve sales volume, VAIO is focusing on smaller, more specialized markets. The company's chief executive Yoshimi Ota told The Wall Street Journal that under Sony, VAIO had concentrated too much on market share over profitability. "We are not interested in cheap models for everyone," Ota told the publication, with the company planning to target users in the creative industry — like photographers and designers — who currently work on Apple computers.
The VAIO Canvas Z. (VAIO)
To this end, VAIO's first product to be sold on its return to the US will be the VAIO Canvas Z, a "monster tablet" that comes with a detachable keyboard, an i7 processor, a 256GB SSD, and up to 16GB of onboard memory. The US price will start at $2,199, with the device going on sale in Microsoft's stores and online via VAIO's US website on October 5th. Preorders in the US will start sometime in the middle of September, although neither products nor prices have yet been confirmed for the Brazilian market.
"We plan to start making VAIO-branded robots in the near future."
VAIO also wants to move beyond the PC business, with ambitions to start building communication devices, wearables, factory-automation machines, and entertainment robots. According to the WSJ, the company's lone factory (which previously made Sony's Aibo robot dog) has already turned some of its spare manufacturing power to build Fujisoft's toy robot Palmi. "Whether it’s humanoid or dog-shaped, we plan to start making VAIO-branded robots in the near future," said Ota.
With or without VAIO-branded robots, the company is going to have an extremely difficult time in the shrinking PC market, which contracted either 9.5 percent or 11.8 percent in the last quarter depending which analysts you believe. Even in Japan, VAIO's market share has fallen to less than 1 percent, according to a Euromonitor report cited by the WSJ. Nevertheless, VAIO's Ota is confident, predicting that the company will record an operating profit by the end of the year, followed by an initial public offering or sale to another company by 2017. Alongside Microsoft and Apple, Ota even names Sony as a potential buyer.