Sony stopped making personal computers last year, and spun off its VAIO brand as a separate company which started to produce high-end computers for the Japanese market, as well as smartphones.
Now the new VAIO is getting ready to take its act international. The Wall Street Journal reports that VAIO will begin selling devices in the US and Brazil this fall.
The first VAIO product coming to America? A high-end tablet that will sell for about $2200 and up. A slim laptop with cellular connectivity is also on the way.
The tablet is the VAIO Z Canvas, which was launched in Japan in May. At the time the company said it would bring the Canvas to the US, but we didn’t know anything about the price or release date at the time.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the tablet will go up for pre-order in September and start shipping to US customers in Octobe..
At first glance, the VAIO Z Canvas looks a bit like a Microsoft Surface Pro. It’s a 12 inch tablet with a high-resolution display, a power processor, a digital pen, and a detachable keyboard.
But VAIO is hoping its model stands out due to premium features. An entry-level tablet has 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, and a keyboard. While Surface Pro 3 prices start at $799, you’d have to pay extra to get a model with anything approaching those specs… and it’d still have a lower-resolution display and less powerful processor than VAIO’s tablet.
It’ll be hard to avoid comparing the VAIO Z Canvas with a Microsoft Surface Pro 3, since VAIO plans to sell its tablets in the US through a partnership with Microsoft’s retail stores.
The VAIO Z Canvas has a 2560 x 1704 pixel display and features Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac WiFI, two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI and mini DisplayPort, and supports up to 1TB of storage, up to 16GB of RAM, and up to an Intel Core i7-4700HQ processor.
Microsoft tablet, meanwhile, has a 12inch, 2160 x 1440 pixel display, Core i3 through Core i7 options, 64GB to 512GB of storage, and 4GB to 8GB of RAM. The Surface Pro 3 comes with a pen, but keyboards are sold separately.
In some ways, the new VAIO looks a lot like the old Sony: instead of competing with a sea of companies offering low-cost tablets, VAIO is hoping it can sell high-priced products with premium specs. Since there’s not as much competition in this space, it might be easier to offer a product that stands out and charge prices high enough to have a healthy profit margin even with relatively low sales volume.
That strategy didn’t work very well for a corporate giant like Sony. But VAIO is a much smaller operation with only 250 employees and a single Japanese factory.
What remains to be seen is whether there’s enough demand for what the new VAIO is offering to keep those 250 workers in their jobs.