Today is a bittersweet day for me. No, it’s not because my class in London is concluding (more on that in an upcoming post). Today, Sony announced that they are selling the Vaio division. While it looks like the company buying it, Japan Industrial Partners Inc., will pick up some of the business and people (I guess somewhat like when IBM sold their PC division to Lenovo), it is the end of an era.
Before you say, “It’s just a PC, Allan,” I have a sentimental relationship with Vaios. I’ve also had a love-hate relationship with owning them, too. The first laptop I truly lusted after was the Vaio TR as well as the still enviable X505 which was thin before thin was even cool. It’s still a wonder to behold. My first Vaio (which I still have) and UMPC was the U70P (see Sony’s old site in Japan here) 10 years ago. It’s still, like the X505, a marvel (I’m using its keyboard with the Tap 11 today). It was certainly ahead of its time and to this day remains one of the favorites of any laptop I have ever owned. Heck, one of my music players – the VGF-AP1L – was Vaio branded. It sounded great and had this cool touch interface, and it had a color screen which was unusual at the time.
Since then I have owned a VGN-SZ90 (which I wrote Pro SQL Server 2005 High Availability on), a VGN-Z90 (the Z that kicked off the modern line) which boasted one of the first proprietary RAIDed SSD configurations, two Gs (my favorite ultraportable PC ever if I was honest with myself), the Vaio Duo 11, a Vaio Pro 13, and finally, the Vaio Tap 11. [As an aside, I love how Sony has maintained all of those old sites …]
The Z90 and the Pro 13 were really the only ones I never bonded with in any way. The Pro 13 I would argue is still one of the best ultrabooks made but I didn’t love the keyboard; as someone who does a lot of writing, that was an issue. Sony unfortunately these past few years couldn’t always deliver the specs I wanted – enter the Panasonics I’ve owned from Japan.
Sure, Sony’s laptops could be expensive (especially if you ordered them from Japan as I often did; the Pro 13 and Tap 11 are from the US, though). They had one thing most PCs did not have: a bit of style. The Japanese models – until recently anyway – had higher specs or different options you couldn’t get outside of Japan … but they offered US keyboards. The U70P, SZ, Z, and Gs were all Japanese. Think about your average ThinkPad – black, square, businesslike – boring. Do they do they job? You bet, but when one wants their laptop to look a bit better, outside of Apple, people thought Sony. In fact if stories are to be believed, Apple wanted Sony to run OS X.
While my daily driver is not the Tap 11 today, I will always have fond memories of some of the marvels Sony produced when it came to laptops. When you see a boring Lenovo, Dell, or HP, remember what Sony once gave us. Sometimes unusual, often flashy, not always practical, but they did some cool stuff. Rest in peace, Sony Vaio.