Sony Unveils Ultralight

TOKYO -- Sony is making an aggressive push into the business computing market with the launch here today of the "Vaio Business" brand and an ultra-lightweight laptop computer that's the product of feedback from more than a thousand business people.

Tiny Vaio Type G Shown

To kick off its more aggressive push to enterprise customers, Sony will begin selling on December 2 the Vaio Type G laptop. The computer is the product of feedback from about 1300 people and is also the lightest laptop with a 12.1-inch screen on the market, according to Sony. At just under 2 pounds the computer's light weight surprised most people who picked it up at a news conference here today.

The secret to the Type G's lightness comes in part from a carbon body. Sony also uses carbon in the heatsink for the processor and graphics chips to reduce the size and weight. The machine will run for about six hours on a fully-charged standard battery and will survive a drop from a table without damage, Sony representatives say. Its light AC adapter is the same thickness as the computer so it won't cause a bulge in a bag.

"The small, thin and light market within the business market is growing and that's the area where we can show our strength in terms of product and technology," said Yoshihisa Ishida, a Sony senior vice president and head of the company's Vaio business, in an interview.

Sony doesn't have any plans to sell the Type G machine overseas at present, he said. When it goes on sale in Japan on December 2, it will cost between $1830 and $2085 depending on configuration. Sony had unveiled an even lighter compact, the Vaio U, in spring, but this entry is targeted squarely at business.

New Business Services

Sony has also prepared a package of aftercare services to cater to business users. These include a help desk dedicated to Vaio Business customers, a 3-year guarantee and--for the legions of Japanese business travelers--the promise that a service technician will come to wherever the customer is should that be necessary.

In its battle for the enterprise market Sony might have an ally in business users.

"From the commercial user's survey, Sony laptops were ranked number one," said Masahiro Katayama, PC research manager at IDC Japan, in e-mailed comments. "So Sony has a good image among business customers especially from the design point of view. But from the reliability point of view, not only for laptops but also other products, customers don't have a good image of Sony. The recent battery recall hasn't helped that."

Vaio Business as a brand will initially be restricted to Japan, Ishida said. In some markets, such as the U.S., the company already promotes laptops to enterprise users under names like Vaio Professional.

"I think it's not easy to do," Ishida said about the difficulty Sony might face in convincing Japanese companies that its machines are just as suited to business as they are to consumer use. He noted that Sony has been getting into the business market in other countries for several years and enterprise customers make up a "pretty high revenue share" of its total business in some countries.

Sony's Goals

The company, which is already one of Japan's top laptop PC makers, hopes to expand its enterprise business by 50 percent year-over-year between now and 2009 so it accounts for 30 percent of its domestic computer sales in 2009. The recent battery recalls, however, have dented its recent revenues.

Sony ranked ninth in the enterprise laptop market in the second quarter of this year with a 2.4 percent share, according to data from IDC. The market leader was NEC, which enjoyed a 23.1 percent share; followed by Fujitsu (16.4 percent); Toshiba (14.3 percent); Dell (12.8 percent); and Lenovo Group (10.4 percent); according to the market research company.

To comment on this article and other PCWorld content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon