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Sony cordons off new PCs at retailers

The consumer electronics giant is creating its own corrals in retail stores to separate its latest Vaio desktops from rival systems.

Sony is creating its own corrals in retail stores to separate its latest Vaio desktops from rival systems.

New displays at Best Buy stores cordon off a pair of new Vaio PCs with Pentium 4 chips and Microsoft's Windows XP operating system. The displays use a set of four 2- to 3-foot tall pillars to separate the PCs. A pair of banners running across the top of each set of pillars highlights the computers' audio and video capabilities. The rest of Sony's models are within the normal displays on shelves.

A similar kind of display will appear in Circuit City stores on or about Oct. 11, when Sony plans to launch a new all-in-one computing/entertainment product that will likely involve its MiniDiscs.

Other computer makers use related, though more expansive, efforts to boost sales. Apple Computer, for example, has stores within stores staffed by Apple employees at CompUSA retailers.

For Sony, the displays are designed to grab the attention of potential customers and to demonstrate its homegrown technology, such as Memory Stick flash memory cards.

"We're showing (customers) new applications they might not have known about," said Rich Black, director of segment marketing for Sony Electronics. "Windows XP kind of lays the framework...We're kind of taking the customer to the next level."

Sony PCs, for example, come with pre-installed software for video editing and for photo and music management.

Sony's fall desktop PC lineup includes the Vaio RX 550, which comes with a 17-inch monitor, a 1.5GHz Pentium 4, 256MB of SDRAM, a 60GB hard drive, a DVD drive and a CD-RW drive. It sells for $1,529 before rebates. Best Buy advertises the PC for $1,199 after rebates.