June 23, 1999 9:00 AM PDT

Sony's PCs take a page from their notebook brethren

NEW YORK--Sony is emphasizing the same cool designs that brought attention to their notebook PCs, but this time they're talking about their desktops.

Sony notebooks have become known CNET's PC Expo coverage for their ultraslim design and lightness, and the company claims they now account for 17 percent of the retail portable market. The Vaio 505 especially has gained attention for its good looks. But its desktop systems have lagged behind, stalled by high prices and bulky designs.

At PC Expo here, Sony says that has changed. The new line of Vaio desktop PCs have dropped in price--like so many other PC companies showing their wares at the trade show--and are a departure from the typical beige box.

As with Gateway and Packard Bell NEC, which have both introduced all-in-one flat-panel desktops, Sony is tinkering with the conventional idea of a desktop PC. It is demonstrating the Vaio Slimtop, which features a flat panel, keyboard, and processor that fit together to take up 25 percent less space, according to Ken Omae, vice president of PC marketing for Sony.

"It's the desktop version of the [Vaio] 505," Omae said. "People used to be proud of a computer's specs; now it's the design," he said, crediting the success of Apple's popular iMac computer with the industry's renewed interest in design.

Sony is also showing lower-priced desktops, although Omae asserts that the company will never introduce a $499 (or lower) system. Sony's version of a low-end system is priced at $999. The sub-$1,000 PCV-R522DS is the low end of the desktop line; the high end of this line includes a $2,199 desktop with DVD-ROM and CD-RW drives.

Although a significant portion of Sony's PC Expo booth is dedicated to new desktops, the company has hardly abandoned its notebooks. Sony is showing a new Vaio with 15-inch display, the largest the company has ever offered. The $2,499 system comes with DVD drive, an Intel Pentium II processor running at 300 MHz, 128MB of memory, and a 6.4GB hard drive.

One year after Sony launched an initiative to boost sales of its computers by integrating them into their more popular audio and video devices, the company claims its strategy has largely been a success. In addition to new notebook and desktop systems, Sony is aggressively pushing its Memory Stick portable storage device, about the size of a stick of gum, which bridges data between the disparate devices.

"One year ago, it was very tough," to educate retailers and consumers about Sony's strategy, Omae said, adding that the company's efforts at education are beginning to show up in the bottom line. "Someday, we will connect everything."

 

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