What does Sony’s sale of VAIO mean for Microsoft, Windows, and the PC?

A big company announcing details of its finances for the quarter often makes for interesting reading, but Sony played something of a trump card this week. The company spoke of the “drastic changes in the global PC industry” meaning that it no longer felt it was viable to stay in the business. Rather than staying in the game and fighting its corner, Sony made the surprise move of selling its VAIO brand so it can concentrate on smartphones, tablets and TVs.

VAIO – a name that Sony would have liked customers to associate with quality and luxury, almost as a Maserati of PCs. But as poor sales demonstrated, it is a name that was more readily associated with expense, and apparently the quality was not sufficiently high enough to justify the price for large numbers of people. But what does this all mean for the PC industry in general, and Microsoft in particular?

It is true that the VAIO name is not going to completely disappear, but for the time being it is going to be limited to Japan. Of course there is scope for it to expand globally again in future, but whether or not this will actually happen is anyone’s guess. On the face of it, things aren’t looking great for the future of the PC.

On the face of it, things aren’t looking great for the future of the PC

The newly appointed Satya Nadella may be wondering if he’s to blame. One day in the top spot at Microsoft and one of the most well-known names in the industry withdraws! But of course, this is not something that has come completely out of the blue. The death of the PC is something that has been predicted for many years now. We’re not quite there, but it is fair to say that we are moving towards a post-PC world. This is a world that reflects the business move just announced by Sony — mobile devices are very much where the innovation and excitement is to be found.

PC and laptop sales have been in steady decline for some time now. Some industry analysts have suggested that the blame for this could be placed at least partially at the door of Windows 8. It is certainly true that the world was not enthralled by the release of this version of the operating system, but the issues experience by naysayers are being addressed. There is interest in Windows 8.1 Update 1 — massive interest. Whether this will be enough to rejuvenate a flagging PC market is not clear, but most of Microsoft’s income stems from the business division anyway — dwindle PC sales don’t really have that much impact. Sure, it’s not great news to see such a big name disappearing, but it is not the end of the world.

Companies such as Lenovo and Nokia have demonstrated that there is huge interest in mobile computing. Sony’s shift to focusing on this area of the industry could create the lead that others can follow. Microsoft is already well-positioned to make great strides in this field, but the company is also able to hedge its bets and keep a foot in the desktop market in case the transition is slow.

Microsoft has already shown that it is capable of producing some impressive hardware of its own

Microsoft’s move to the cloud with Windows Azure, Outlook.com, Office 365 and the like could be seen as partly indicative of its own belief in the future of mobile. Joining forces with Nokia means that tablets and smartphones are also well-catered for, but Sony’s switch to concentrating on smartphones and tablets almost certainly means focusing on its Xperia range rather than looking to Windows Phone or Windows RT.

In a sense, Microsoft is losing Sony to Google as the devices that Sony will be producing are Android-based. HP has already shown its interest in mobile devices with it investment in Chromebooks — again, Google. Does this matter? Windows Phone may be losing out to Android, but there is little sign of Windows losing its dominance of desktops and laptops. Chromebook has caused some interest, but it is far from being a major threat.

Of course, Microsoft still has a very healthy home and business user base. There are millions of people ready to lap up the software pumped out by the company — it’s just a shame that the number of manufacturers working on the hardware side of things is diminishing.

Microsoft has already shown that it is capable of producing some impressive hardware of its own — Xbox One and Surface are testament to this. The investment in Surface and Surface Pro, coupled with the move to the cloud, shows that Microsoft is pinning more on mobile devices than desktop computers. The PC may not be dead, but it is certainly changing.

With other manufacturers jumping ship, Microsoft could ultimately be left on its own producing both hardware and software for Windows devices. Now that would be an interesting state of affairs.

But what do you think? Does the sale of VAIO impact the PC industry? What’s does the future of the PC hold?

  • Mikado_Wu

    I stated months ago, that High End and Gaming computers are all that will be left in 2 years. I already moved my Admin staff to Surface Pro’s with Dual and triple monitors.
    I also suggested that Dell will ultimately be making the Microsoft Brand PC’s in the Future.
    I would like to see the next Xbox come with a Proprietary Upgradeable Video Card. I think this cold extend the life and reduce the costs. This is one I could be wrong on, but it sounds like a good idea. :)
    I can not stand Google, and have been successful in moving people off them and back to MS products, but there will always be Sheep thinking they are getting something for free.

  • http://twitter.com/dingl_ dingl_

    Sony put forth average and overpriced products. Windows didn’t kill Sony’s line, Sony did. Lenovo and Dell are doing fine with their Windows devices
    Heck even Surface had some good earnings at 1 billion dollars now

    I swore off Sony after the Sony rootkit affair, as I suspect many a nerd did

    Virus of the PC industry, good riddance

    • Abster

      Agree. This isn’t a “surprise move” to anyone who’s been following the news and knows about Sony’s dismal sales and even rumors of a sale to Lenovo. Ultimately they have only themselves to blame and not Windows or Microsoft.

      “The newly appointed Satya Nadella may be wondering if he’s to blame. One day in the top spot at Microsoft and one of the most well-known names in the industry withdraws!”

      Haha, nice joke. Not. Consumer preferences have changed, mobile computing is dominant, and PCs don’t need to be updated every couple of years in any case since they are powerful enough. Sony didn’t care to innovate or adapt like Lenovo and other OEMs did, and is paying the price. They can’t make excuses and point fingers at others for their own failings.

      I don’t think Microsoft will end up like Apple i.e. being the only manufacturer of Windows hardware. But if they start offering an expanded Surface lineup catering to various price points, with new innovative features and great build quality like they already have, and with no OEM crapware, then definitely Lenovo and co. will have to step up their game a lot. This is actually a good thing. I’d like to see the remaining OEMs compete on features and prices and push each other to make some really high quality devices. Prices aside, no-one can deny the build quality of Macbooks. High time we saw such devices from Windows OEMs too.

      • arrow2010

        The Surfaces are the closest in build quality to Macs I’ve seen so far. Still not quite. The Surface cover’s trackpad is tiny and shitty. Apple would never release such a half-baked thing.

        • David Cardona

          They already have, no company is perfect my friend.

        • Abster

          I’m sure the trackpad quality will get there eventually. The v2 covers are much better, although I’m frankly tired of waiting for the Power Cover.

  • Sargon

    No matter how unpopular PCs may become in the future they will NEVER die. People used to say how laptops would kill PC, which they didn’t and neither will tablets.
    There will always be people who need strong computing power than no laptop and certainly no silly tablet will ever be able to offer. People who work with graphics for example. Will your tablet be able to render cinema quality image stills for animation? I don’t think so.
    Also PC gamers will never abandon desktops as well.
    So whenever I see someone predicting the death of PCs I laugh at them like I laugh at someone predicting the end of the world every 2 years.

    • Patrick

      it will not die, but it will not dominate anymore. Just like your example, desktop is still alive, but its marketshare is far from it was 5 years ago. The problem is shifting from desktop to laptop is very easy: no company loses, no company gains. People who buy HP desktops will buy HP laptops. People who buy Dell desktop will buy Dell laptops
      Shifting from PCs to mobile is very risky for PC makers and Microsoft. This is why it needs to be addressed by Microsoft before they lose to Google

      • Sargon

        Well then they better start merging Win RT with WP. Wp currently is waaaay to closed and lacks so many features. It’s just silly when you compare an 8 inch device with a 6 inch device. One is incredibly open, the other is ridiculously closed. They need to add a file explorer and maybe even open up system files like they do in pcs and used to in win mobile.
        Otherwise they will lose to android, which right now is a lot more like windows than windows phone.
        You can even have multiple windows on an android phone… Microsoft needs to work faster and stop copying iOS who’s novelty is starting to wear off fast.

        • Patrick

          Agree, in my opinion, Samsung should make a phablet that runs Windows 8. Ive been thinking about this since the release of 8-inch tablets.
          Here’s what I think: (sorry for off topic, but I really love to talk about this)
          – start with Galaxy Note 3
          – give it 32/64/128 GB storage options
          – Use Intel Atom for classic apps compatibility
          – Use Intel’s solution to dual-boot Android for handling phone capabilities and to fill the app gap.
          – The Wacom stylus will handle the small desktop
          – Make a tablet and laptop dock
          – Sell it for $200 more than the Note 3, people will still buy it

          • Sargon

            Oh I’ve been dreaming about little desktop on a phone / phablet for ages :D.
            I mean changing up start screen a little bit and adding a call function would pretty much be enough to put it on a phone / phablet.
            Honestly, though, it sounds way too good to be true. Right now I’d settle just for a limited file explorer. Everything else would be a bonus.

    • Aaditya Menon

      just it wont continue to dominate…

  • arrow2010

    No, what killed the PC industry was the unibody Macbooks and iMacs that came out in 2008 with so my innovations like:

    – the entire chassis milled out of one piece of aluminum
    – LEDs set inside drilled holes
    – LEDs that show through porous parts of the chassis
    – magnetic power connector
    – superior display with a high NIT and color gamut
    – iSight camera that is the best in the industry
    – glass trackpad with no visible buttons and super accurate tracking and supported taps as well

    specific to iMac – the stand as a solid piece of aluminum that joins the body in a swanlike grace

    The point is Apple has been the one innovating PCs for the last decade, everyone else just copying and badly.

    • David Cardona

      Actually, NO. What’s killing the PC indsutry is mobile devices and if you would like to feel better about yourself, Yes, it started with the iPod and Iphone 1 but all the rest that you mention is just you trying to start a meaningless war.

    • passerby

      Why did the first mac book air have to copy the isolated keyboard design from the lightest laptop in the world then the Z series vaio

  • Aaditya Menon

    Hey , I had bought Sony VAIO F1521ASN/B Laptop (3rd Gen Ci3/ 2GB/ 500GB/ Recently upgraded to 8.1) a month ago. If Sony sells its PC division , does this mean I wont continue to receive warranty on my Vaio Laptop??