Sony is taking steps in that direction by teaming with TechData, one of the leading distributors of technology products to small and medium-sized businesses in the United States. Through the agreement, TechData will order customized PCs from the Japanese company and get delivery in three days.
The arrangement will allow TechData to carry Sony PCs in inventory for a shorter period than it would without an agreement, which could mean lower overhead costs for TechData and potentially lower prices on those PCs for TechData customers. Sony would reap the benefits of selling to the small- to medium-sized business market.
The move emphasizes the significance of small to medium-sized businesses, a rare segment of the PC industry because it has continued to grow in spite of an overall slump. Both Gateway and IBM also have announced new plans to address the segment. Through its agreement with TechData, Sony is going after businesses with up to 1,000 employees.
IDC analyst Roger Kay said that during these tough times in the PC industry, all the PC makers are seeking growth wherever they can find it.
"Everyone is fishing in (small to medium businesses) looking for any stones that haven't been turned over," Kay said. In contrast with their method for handling large corporate accounts, however, PC makers "can't reach (small to medium-sized businesses) with a blanket approach," so there may be some areas that haven't been addressed yet, he added.
Sony is going after the content-creation business in which Apple Computer has been very successful and that can be "very lucrative," Kay said. And to Sony's advantage, it can attract consumers with an array of peripherals, such as digital cameras, MP3 players and handheld devices.
TechData already sells Sony digital-imaging products and monitors, and following the mid-August launch, it will also carry the entire line of Vaio notebook PCs as well as the Slimtop Pen Tablet PC model PCV-LX910.
"The initial steps are to address small to medium-sized businesses, but we are building the infrastructure to address bigger markets," said John Gawa, a Sony marketing manager for Vaio PCs.
Sony is also offering small to medium-sized businesses a dedicated technical-support line and a three-year limited warranty for a new Vaio notebook, also announced Monday.