Toru Hanai / Reuters
Sony, like the rest of the industry, has seen its PC sales tumble as people rely more and more on the tiny computers they carry around in their pockets. On Tuesday that reality led to a huge shift in Sony’s business: The company will be selling off its Vaio PC line. Sony confirmed that it has found a buyer for its branded Vaio computers in Japan Industrial Partners, a Japanese investment group.
The plan to exit the PC market has been in the works for a while, according to the company. Back in 2012, Sony began “aggressively” employing a restructuring that designated imaging (cameras), gaming (PlayStation) and mobile (phones/tablets) as the foundation of its electronics business. The move left two major categories out on the fringes: TVs and PCs.
While the company notes that the TV business won’t become profitable by the time the fiscal year ends next month, it happily noted that it has managed to “significantly enhance its operational structure and product competitiveness.” Indeed, any reporter who has attended a Sony event in the past year can tell you that TV — namely 4K — is still a major focus for the company.
Sony will be spinning its TV division off as its own business. The Vaio line, on the other hand, will be sold, after 17 years within Sony. There aren’t any specific numbers on the proposed deal, but Sony noted that between 250 and 300 employees will likely be hired by Vaio’s new owners. Others will be transferred to different divisions in Sony, and the rest will be offered early retirement plans.
The Vaio sale comes amid news that the company will be shedding 5,000 jobs — or around 3 percent of its full staff.
Here in the States, at least, the Vaio never really became the major player Sony hoped it would. Still, the company won fans among tech reviewers, and some PC shoppers, for its innovative and lightweight laptop. A recent story even noted that Apple’s late founder Steve Jobs counted himself a fan, once suggesting that Sony become the sole third-party manufacturer building devices to run OS X, Apple’s desktop operating system.
While Sony never achieved the sales of some of the top PC makers, it’s hard not to see such a sale as a sign of the times for the computing industry. It would be going too far to suggest that this marks the beginning of the end for laptops and the like, but it certainly doesn’t bode well when a company as large and innovative as Sony sees the writing on the wall.
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