NEW YORK--As expected, Sony unveiled its first personal computer today at the PC Expo trade show in New York, christening the branded machine as Vaio, for Video Audio Integrated Operation.
The Vaio PC marks a significant departure for a company that is known for entertainment devices like the Walkman and Trinitron television sets but which is now trying to make itself over as an information technology powerhouse. Sony officials emphasized that Vaio represents a combination of the company's well-known expertise in audio-visual products with a recent exploration into the personal PC market.
"Sony will shift from an audio-visual company to an audio-visual/information technology company," said Kuni Ando, president of Sony Information Technology Company. "This transition is of the highest priority."
In August, Sony will ship two versions of the Vaio, both of which will be aimed squarely at the high-end multimedia PC consumer market. Prices for the PCs, which will both run Windows 95, will range between $2,000 and $3,000.
The PCV-70 will feature a 166-MHz Pentium processor, 16MB of RAM, a 2.1GB hard drive, a 28.8-kbps modem, MPEG decoding capabilities, an 8X CD-ROM drive, and a software bundle that includes Internet consumer online service access software. The higher-end PCV-90 will come configured with the newly introduced 200-MHz Pentium processor, 32MB of RAM, and a 2.5GB hard drive.
Hoping to appeal to novice users, the Sony PCs will also come with Vaio Space, a 3D graphical interface that sits on top of Windows 95 and guides users through the PCs audio, video, and communications capabilities.
Finally, the Vaio PCs will feature Sony's signature sleek design and, more importantly, the Sony brand name that the company is counting on to lure a new category of consumers to PCs.
"The PC is approaching a major stage in its development," said Carl Yankowski, president and COO of Sony Electronics. "The consumerization of the PC in the United States is finally reaching critical mass."
Sony officials don't discount the possibility of building a Network Computer--a kind of stripped-down Internet box built to a design overseen by Oracle-- but said the company has no specific plans for that right now. In the meantime, however, the company hopes to relaunch its much-ignored MagicLink handheld computer as a corporate intranet device.
"Our MagicLink device is being repositioned as an Internet access device, particularly for intranets," said Tim Errington, senior vice president of sales marketing for Sony Information Technologies of America.