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Sony wants slice of business pie

But still releases a slew of consumer products

Consumer brand Sony wants to sell its notebooks to large companies - a strategy which raised more than a few eyebrows when it was announced at its recent VIP Conference in Barcelona.

"We want to create a whole business solution around Vaio," explained Jonathan White, Sony product marketing manager.

Sony also used the conference to announce a bunch of new products and add-ons for existing products.

Figures from IT analyst, Gartner show that while the desktop market remains stagnant, there is still money to be made in portable PCs, a focus on notebooks makes sense. But for Sony, with a reputation for consumer products, attempting to take on business giants like Toshiba and IBM, seems like an uphill battle.

To tempt business managers to choose its portables over those of its more established rivals, Sony is offering several models with dual boot to Windows XP Professional and Windows 2000, plus one low-end notebook with XP Pro, rather than Home, preinstalled.

For high-end users it has the PCG CRX516MD, which is a desktop replacement with a 16.1in screen, there is also a subnotebook, the PCG-R600, and Sony plans to offer the previously released 14.1in screen-based PCG-VX71P with a dual boot option.

Both the large screen and subnotebook models are costly at around £1,700, but for users who want a cheaper option there is the PCG-FX802IP, which will cost approximately £850, and now comes with XP Pro onboard.

This completes the range of products businesses can choose from — Sony is not in a position to offer build to order systems. It has partnered with third parties to offer hard drive imaging and support and plans to provide a three-year onsite warranty to business customers, but this warranty so far only covers customers in a few European countries.

Despite these limitations, Sony believes that its reputation for high build quality and reliability will win it customers, according to White.

As far as other products are concerned the company is keen to focus on key technologies, including wireless LAN and Bluetooth. "Whether we like it or not we will be able to work 24 hours a day wherever we are, thanks to theses technologies," explained Taisuke Nakanishi, vice president of Sony Europe.

A Bluetooth Memory Stick adaptor — the PEGA-MSBI — will be launched in October for Clie handhelds, but at £139 we don’t envisage a sudden rush of early adopters. In fact it might be worth waiting a while, because Sony hinted at built-in Bluetooth for future Clie handhelds.

Sony announced for Clie a games adaptor — PEGA-GC10 at £32 — and mini keyboard — PEGA-KB20 at £35 — both due out in October. For those who hanker after a full size keyboard for their Clie, White did hint that one may be in the pipeline.

Sony also announced the company's first 20- and 23in widescreen flat panel displays — the SDM-P82 and SDM-P232W (pictured) —, which are aimed at "the corporate sector who want maximum performance", or high end video editing enthusiasts, said George Damigos, Sony manager for displays.

These flat panels are due out in October, when pricing will be announced, they will also include Mac adaptors, in the box for the first time, as Sony hopes to rival Apple's Studio Display flat panels for high-end graphics users.

The company has also developed 13in next generation OLED (organic light emitting device)-based screen. OLED displays promise even slimmer monitors than are possible with current LCD (liquid crystal display) technologies, but Sony gave no details on when these screens would reach a commercial market.


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