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Sony VAIO's fatal flaw: The PCs cost too damned much

Brad Chacos | Feb. 7, 2014
Sony's floundering PC business is no more, sold to a group of investors that plan to pull the once-vaunted VAIO brand back within Japan's borders.

The same underlying thread repeated itself over and over and over again. VAIO PCs offered an intriguing blend of design and oomph — the blend wasn't intriguing enough to justify the prices Sony asked for, especially considering VAIO's tendency for slight underperformance.

Meanwhile, customer satisfaction with Sony PCs plummeted in recent years, delivering next-to-last ratings in PCWorld's 2012 reader satisfaction survey. High costs create high expectations, and it was clear Sony wasn't meeting those, for whatever reason.

Not meeting market demand
Former PCWorlder Darren Gladstone hit the crux of the issue on the head all the way back in 2008, in his review of the $1,500-and-up Sony VAIO VGN-Z598U. "Everyone talks about the Apple tax - the premium you're paying for an Apple product. The same could technically be said for some of Sony's more uniquely designed notebooks."

Sony was never able to generate the same buzz for its PCs that Apple built around the Mac, however. Apple's slim notebooks have accounted for roughly 90 percent of all $1,000-plus laptop sales for years now — the very market Sony specialized in — while PC makers who jumped on the MacBook-miming Ultrabook bandwagon early are scrambling back after finding that few Windows buyers are willing to spend that much on a laptop. Sony itself only shipped 1.5 million PCs total in the third quarter of 2013, according to IDC.

With the overall computer industry shrinking, the average selling price of Windows PCs hovering under $500, sales of low-cost tablets surging, and the high-end PC market absolutely cornered by Apple despite the Ultrabook push, it's easy to see why Sony threw in the towel on the premium — but long unprofitable — VAIO brand to focus on booming mobile technology. Differentiation just didn't pay off for Sony in the long run. 

As I said: Mourn not for this loss, fellow PC faithful. You weren't buying VAIOs anyway. 


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