The abbreviation VAIO stood for “Video Audio Integrated Operation” (built-in support for working with video and audio). The history of VAIO began in 1996, when Sony decided to revive the direction of personal computers, which it produced in Japan in the eighties. The company relied on multimedia capabilities.
The first VAIO PCV-90 computer featured a pseudo-three-dimensional desktop with which the user could access the built-in media functions. In 1997, Sony released the VAIO PCG-707 laptop with a 12.1-inch TFT screen, a docking station with a FIEE 1394 (FireWire) port and an ultra-thin at that time (24 mm) VAIO PCG-505 laptop in a magnesium case.
And in 1998, the first ultraportable PCG-C1 with an 8.9-inch 480p display appeared. It weighed 1.1 kg, inside there was a built-in webcam, FireWire, modem and CD-R drive. It was the first netbook on the market — 9 years before Intel began to develop the direction of compact laptops. In the future, the VAIO series laptops also differed from competitors in their design, ergonomics and operating time. Sony produced thin, compact and powerful laptops that were popular in the niche business segment. What are the 13 and 11 inch, legendary SZ and Z series with carbon fiber covers. But Sony could not win a significant market share — it ranged from 1-3% of all PC sales.
In 2014, a Japanese author writing about Apple, Nobuyuki Hayashi, said that Steve Jobs was considering the possibility of releasing VAIO with macOS. He met with former Sony president Kunitake Ando in 2001 in Hawaii and was ready to “make an exception for Sony” and allow the use of macOS. But the negotiations did not lead to anything.
What went wrong with VAIO
VCRU writes that in February 2014 Sony sold the PC business to the Japanese investment fund JIP for 40-50 billion yen. The company has 5% of the shares of the new company. JIP itself planned to produce computers under the VAIO brand in the Japanese market. The sale of Vaio was associated with permanent operating losses of the Mobile Products & Communications division, which was engaged in computer sales.
From October to December 2013, the division’s loss amounted to 12.6 billion yen — in 2012 it was 21.3 billion yen.
Sony had several reasons for abandoning VAIO, the PC World edition noted in 2014:
At that time, the PC market was shrinking very much, the demand for tablets was growing, and manufacturers made little money selling computers and laptops. To compensate for the drop, the VAIO devices of recent years were hybrids: laptop-tablet, tablet-monoblock, and so on. Buyers were not interested in them. “VAIO were elegant and innovative devices, but with a fatal flaw – most of them were surprisingly expensive,” writes PC World.
The publication analyzed its reviews of VAIO devices since 2008 and revealed a trend – Sony unreasonably inflated the prices of laptops even in the budget segment. Sometimes the “shocking” price of a VAIO flashed in the headlines of reviews of devices, like “Excessively inflated price for such performance” or “Wait for the price to fall”:
2008: “Sony VAIO VAIO-Z598U is impressive, but with all the additional features it costs the same as a used car.”
2009: “The super sexy slim VAIO X has the dimensions of a netbook, decent characteristics and a serious price of $ 1300. And what about the more affordable Vaio W netbook? Its price is not low enough considering what Sony is asking for $500.
” 2010: “Sony VAIO VPKY218FX is lightweight, compact and very stylish, but it is expensive for the performance that it has.”
2011: “The VAIO Y is a good balance between a netbook and an ultraportable PC, but we expected that with such a set of functions and performance, we would have to pay less.”
Sony’s pricing policy was compared to a “tax on Apple”: VAIO offered attractive devices, but the design and execution were not enough to justify the prices and understated performance compared to competitors. It was not possible to build the same hype around the VAIO as around the Mac: at that time, Apple captured about 90% of the entire laptop market, costing from $ 1,000 — the segment that Sony was aiming for, PC World notes.
The average cost of a Windows device was less than $500, the PC industry was shrinking, and tablets occupied the niche of inexpensive devices. Therefore, Sony abandoned the premium but unprofitable Vaio brand and focused on the growing demand in the mobile device market, the publication concluded.