REDMOND, Wash. — Dec. 1, 2011 — With Sony’s VAIO brand of PCs dating back to the 1990s, it’s hard to deny the VAIO has become a true tech-industry classic. Chances are, you’ve either owned a VAIO laptop or know someone who has. Today’s VAIO line has evolved to include something for everyone, from busy professionals to hardcore gamers who want the best graphics performance in a mobile PC.
According to Kevin Sather, senior product manager for the VAIO group, the brand’s longevity and success hinge upon this ability to find the right blend of hardware and software to suit any customer’s needs.
“It always starts with the customer,” says Sather. “How will they use their laptop, where, how frequently? We start there, and then look at features we can offer to enhance that experience.”
As an example, he points to one of the hottest PCs in the VAIO lineup — the S Series. Sather says the S is designed to provide the optimum combination of portability and performance, incorporating hybrid graphics and a built-in optical drive in a laptop that still comes in under one inch and less than four pounds.
“The S targets what we call the ‘productive achiever,’ the person who demands a lot from a PC and uses it in a variety of ways,” Sather says. “That could be business users who travel a lot, or students who need to be on campus all day, but also require higher performance than a casual user.”
Move up to Sony’s flagship Z Series, Sather says, and mobility becomes the premium. The Z features an even lighter and thinner chassis, with the graphics and optical drive incorporated into a secondary piece of equipment called the Power Media Dock.
With the F Series on the other hand, performance sits in the driver’s seat. The F is designed for multimedia first and foremost, and although less mobile than the S or Z, it features a larger screen, a quad-core CPU, performance graphics and a seriously gorgeous display.
To continually build and improve on the VAIO series, Sony uses focus groups, surveys and other means to understand what customers need and expect. Sather says although Sony is always trying to innovate in terms of appearance, performance and features, his group also stays true to the essence of the VAIO brand.
“Mobility has been a cornerstone of VAIO for the past 15 years, so we feel the market expects us to deliver the best-in-class experience when it comes to mobility,” he says. “Multimedia is also very important. We start with usage scenarios and then integrate technical features from across all the divisions of Sony.”
When it comes time to “light up” a new laptop design, of course, the software comes into play. Today’s VAIO laptops feature Windows 7 Home Premium and Professional editions primarily, with other editions available depending on the customer’s needs. For example, the S Series (and all VAIO computers) come with VAIO Care software, an easy way to maintain and maximize performance of the PC. The F Series, which is focused on media, includes a suite of software called Sony Imagination Studio Multimedia Edition, featuring great video and audio-editing applications like Vegas, Sound Forge and ACID.
Microsoft’s Yoshi Aida is the main contact between Sony’s engineers and Microsoft. He says it can be challenging to keep up with Sony’s innovation on the hardware side, but the two companies work closely to ensure that the VAIO laptops work well with everything Windows brings to the table.
“Sony works hard to be innovative in terms of the design and appearance of its machines, but also the hardware architecture,” Aida says. “It’s always on the cutting edge.”
For this year’s S Series, Aida says, the two companies worked closely to ensure the machine provides the great experience by optimizing the fundamental system performance and battery life performance.
“By leveraging the Windows 7 capability and maximizing VAIO’s hardware potential we came up with a way to provide a zippy experience, to really help customers manage their battery life,” he says.
Another example is taking shape in Sony’s all-in-one PC, the L Series, with enhanced support for touch, enabled by Windows 7, something that Sather says the two companies will continue to build upon as they gear up for Windows 8.
“It takes a lot of collaboration between Sony and Microsoft to make sure we deliver a unified, compelling experience for customers,” Sather says. “Microsoft is developing features and operating systems that speak to more consumers, and I’m happy to see that continue as we work toward Windows 8, offering even more new ways for customers to enjoy their PC experience.”