Vaio, the former laptop unit of Sony, is expanding its efforts in the U.S. as it courts business executives with new versions of its Z 2-in-1 laptop and a workhorse S.
The laptop maker stopped by the New York office of CBS Interactive to highlight its new devices, which have been available in Japan. The latest Zs come equipped with the latest Intel Core processors, performance gains and a premium design that made Vaio popular in the first place.
According to Ty Takayanagi, director of product marketing, the high-end Z is a tablet-laptop combo that rhymes with Microsoft's Surface, but has a rigid keyboard and a screen that stays attached. By keeping the tablet attached to the keyboard, Vaio gets around having to keep batteries in both sides of the convertible.
For performance, the premium Z, which starts at $1,799, has a 28 watt i7 or i5. To handle that power and preserve battery life, the Z shrunk the motherboard inside to accommodate fans and more battery. The Vaio laptops are designed and manufactured in Japan and aimed at creative pros as well as business execs. Vaio recently outlined its Vaio Z Canvas.
Takayanagi explained that Vaio expects the Zs, one in black and one in silver, to fare well with small businesses as well as executives.
The black Z has a touch screen, a mica touch pad and aluminum build. Vaio's high-end laptop has a bevy of nice features and a stylus for notes and white board annotations. The silver Z doesn't have a touch screen or a tablet mode and starts at $1,499.
The next challenge is for Vaio to garner more distribution. The company is rolling out its new laptops via the Microsoft store and cutting deals with regional retailers in areas like New York where the Vaio sells well. "We stayed small and didn't approach large retailers," said Takayanagi. For instance, the new Vaio devices won't be found at a retailer like Best Buy. The biggest issue is that Vaio wouldn't be able to handle a big demand spike with its current manufacturing footprint.
Vaio is rounding out its launch with an S-series, which is a workhorse laptop that's designed to take a beating and withstand drops. The S laptop starts at $1,099 and is available in early March. The Zs will appear in early February.