Sony Apparently Recovering From Netbookaphobia
“If (the Eee PC from) Asus starts to do well, we are all in trouble. That’s just a race to the bottom.”
– Mike Abary, senior vice president of Sony’s IT product division, February, 2008
If the netbook market is a race to the bottom, then Sony is bringing up the rear. Not a year after Sony execs disparaged netbooks as undeserving of its premium brand attention, the company announced its token entry into the market: the Vaio W.
Outfitted with a 10-inch screen, an Intel (INTC) Atom processor, 1GB of memory, a 160GB hard disk drive and Windows XP, the machine prices out at $630 in Japan, $499 in the U.S. That’s quite a bit more expensive than rival netbooks. Which is odd since the market for these machines is fairly price-sensitive. Still, Sony (SNE) feels the W is good value for the money, given its design, cheery color palette (white, brown, pink!) and screen resolution–at 1366 by 768 pixels, the W’s display is clearly better than that of its rivals.
Said Vaio chief Nicolas Barendson, “We believe that this screen resolution and design offers our customers a better experience, and that it will be popular with both newcomers to the netbook market looking for a quality portable PC at a netbook price point, and customers wanting to improve their existing netbook experience to date by upgrading their screens.”
Sony’s announcement leaves Apple (AAPL) as the lone major computer manufacturer without a netbook offering, a designation it’s likely to keep for the foreseeable future, according to company execs. “When I look at netbooks, I see cramped keyboards, terrible software, junky hardware, very small screens,” COO Tim Cook said back in April, noting that it’s “a stretch” to call a netbook a personal computer. “It’s just not a good consumer experience and not something we would put the Mac brand on…it’s not a space as it exists today that we are interested in, nor do we believe that customers in the long term would be interested in. It’s a segment we would choose not to play in.”