One more element of the Sony global strategy rolled into New Zealand yesterday, with the launch of an Web-based direct sales structure for the company's Vaio notebooks.
The Vaio direct model was first launched in the US in April 1998 and has since been introduced in Europe and Japan. Here, Sony will make its Website the centre of a "Club Vaio" community, in which users will be able to bid online for new products and enter online promotions and competitions.
The four new Vaio models introduced yesterday are available for purchase from the site, from Sony showroom shops in Newmarket and (soon) Christchurch and from other retailers, some hosting a "storewithin a store" Sony boutique. The fulfilment system to supply retail is Internet-based.
Like Apple Computer, Sony is pitching its computers as high-value, high-style media accessories for the SOHO market, complete with bundled digital video editing software and i-Link (alias IEEE 1394 or Firewire) and Ethernet connectivity. Vaio is part of a grand strategy, incorporating Playstation II, the Memory Stick storage format and an array of media peripherals, laid out by Sony CEO Nobuyuki Idei at Comdex last November.
Sony's PC strategy is based entirely on its super-slim notebook range. It does not make desktop computers - but at yesterday's launch, visiting president of Vaio Global Direct, Kunimara Suzuki, made light of doubts that the local home market would stretch to the company's $5199 to $8599 notebooks.
Suzuki said that although New Zealand was nowhere near Japan's 50-50 split between notebooks and desktops in the home market, "that figure doesn't mean much. What Vaio is trying to do is to create a new market."
Sony is looking to sell 2.8 million Vaio notebooks worldwide this year. The company's New Zealand Vaio business unit manager Andrew Walker said the product was "not about selling volume" and that he would be "ecstatic" if the company could capture more than 3% of the local market.