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New sales model adopted for some Sony products

By Dan Neel

(IDG) -- In an effort to penetrate the North American corporate laptop computer market, Sony on Monday announced a major change in the way the company will build and sell its new Vaio GR-series mobile products.

Sony has enlisted Tech Data, a global provider of IT products based in Clearwater, Fla., to act as the go-between for VARs to purchase Sony's Vaio GR-series laptops, said John Gawa, the commercial marketing manager for Sony's Vaio line.

"We're announcing a major expansion into the commercial market place for Vaio," Gawa said. "We're announcing an expansion into the VAR community, which is a community that we have not served for the five year history of Vaio." INFOCENTER
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The GR-series systems, powered by Intel's re-designed Pentium III-M chip, are intended to compete with corporate desktop PC replacement laptops from Dell, IBM, HP, and others, according to Gawa.

Sony said it hopes to use the new sales channel to take advantage of the popularity the Vaio line currently enjoys among senior business executives, and expand Vaio's presence throughout the enterprise.

"What we're doing is capitalizing on a pent-up demand [for Vaio laptops]," Gawa said. "We've already built a demand in the commercial channel. We've become the executive suite product of choice within the corporate community, and what we're doing is expanding our availability down into the management levels and the working levels and not just be the stealth product of choice."

Sony will adopt something of a build-to-order business model for the new Vaio distribution channel, Gawa said.

"As we're making this expansion, we're doing it without finished goods inventory. All of the products that will be available through the VARs are build to order," explained Gawa. GR-series Vaio laptops will be assembled in Sony's San Diego plant, which will fill orders for Tech Data, Gawa said.

Sony's new manufacturing and sales approach could eventually resemble Dell Computer's build-to-order assembly model.

"We have the ability for a VAR to look into our product availability, place an order, and three days later the product will be delivered to the end-user or the VAR," Gawa said.

The Sony/Tech Data sales channel for GR-series laptops will only service customers in North America, but arrangements will be made for companies that require GR-series systems delivered to globally distributed offices, Gawa said.

Sony has experienced a considerable degree of success with its laptop computers in the Asia/Pacific corporate market, according to industry research. The company was also one of the first to offer Transmeta's Crusoe processor in a mobile product.

The decision to go with an Intel chip inside the GR-series products hinged on a perception held by U.S. companies that Intel chips are more reliable than competing chips from Transmeta or Advanced Micro Devices, Gawa said.

• Sony Corporation

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