Sony has launched a range of notebooks onto the local retail market which will be sold directly as well as through the channel.
Sony began developing its PC range in 1996 in an effort to expand into the broadband network area. The VAIO 505 quickly became the bestselling notebook in Japan. Since then, the product line has expanded to include notebooks, Music Clip, InfoCarry, USB Camera and Jog Controller. The launch of the VAIO notebooks last week is the company's first foray into the Australian market.
The initial VAIO notebook range - five models in all - will be sold via retailers and also directly through Sony's Web site. It is the first time Sony has sold its products direct, although the company maintains it is not compromising the channel.
"It is a whole new way of doing business for Sony. We had to develop a hybrid system of direct and non-direct sales," said Sony Australia's VAIO project team leader, Daniel Horan. "While the direct model is nothing new in the computer industry, we have tried to balance the old and the new to stay competitive in the market."
Horan said Sony would avoid pricing conflict by selling the VAIO range at recommended retail price and the Web site would refer customers to retail outlets where possible.
"We need our retailers to give service and the personal touch. Our only direct outlets are via our Web site and call centre and our Sony showcase store at Fox Studios in Sydney."
Sony did not have any plans to open more showcase stores, said Horan.
The VAIO range is based around the often-touted concept of integrating multimedia platforms with personal computing and telecommunications. All the notebooks feature an iLink port, also known as a firewire connection, which allows users to connect to digital consumer electronics. They are also bundled with a range of Sony's audio-visual software including DVgate, Smart Capture, PictureGear and Media Bar. Two of the models also come with Sony's Memory Stick.
"The importance of the VAIO notebooks is the link they provide between AV and IT convergence - no other PC can do that," Horan said.
Sony is holding off releasing a desktop VAIO, currently selling in Japan and the US, onto the local market.
"We are concentrating on our notebook range for the time being. Notebooks are more price competitive," Horan said.
In Japan, Sony has undergone extensive restructuring into five main companies. Although this hasn't happened locally, Horan said the arrival of the broadband era would see the company's operations base itself around three pillars; digital TV, PlayStation 2 and Sony's VAIO product.