RealTime IT News

Entertainment Portal for Vaio

You've got music, movies, multimedia and a brand new home page -- if you're planning to buy a new Sony Vaio this spring.

America Online and Sony announced on Thursday that the two companies are partnering to provide a customized portal for users of Sony's Vaio PCs. The portal page will provide Vaio users with access to entertainment content such as music, TV shows and videos.

The portal will be set as the default home page on all Sony Vaio consumer PCs manufactured in 2006. New Vaio PCs with the Sony-AOL home page will begin shipping in February. The new Vaios will also sport preloaded copies of AOL's Explorer browser, which AOL says is an enhanced version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer with more security and pop-up blocking features, as well as the AOL Instant Messenger service, the AOL Toolbar and other AOL software products.

"This is a winning partnership for both of our companies and for our consumers by bringing together two great brands to offer a terrific end-to-end consumer experience," said Kevin Conroy, executive vice president of AOL Media Networks, in a company statement.

"Making our popular Web brands, including the AOL.com portal, easily available to VAIO users will offer consumers some of the best communication products, multimedia content and services that the Web has to offer."

Since the launch of the Vaio line of PCs in 1997, Sony has marketed its purple-colored computers (more recently purple trimmed) as a stylish multimedia and entertainment product instead of a solid corporate workhorse, sort of the Apple computer of the PC world, though Mac fans will undoubtedly cringe at the comparison. Broadening access to multimedia offerings is firmly in line with the Vaio branding plan.

Sony went through a major management shakeup almost a year ago, in an attempt to revive flagging profits. As part of the reshuffle, Welsh-born Sir Howard Stringer was appointed chairman and CEO, the first time Sony has appointed a non-Japanese native to that position.

Stringer's initiatives seem to be working.

On Thursday, Sony reported a 17.5 percent rise in profit for the October-December quarter and revised their earlier projection for a loss in 2006, saying the company expected to turn a profit in this year as opposed to losing $86 million.

In more good news for Sony, Konica Minolta announced last week that it was pulling out of the camera business, and would be transferring its digital single-lens reflex cameras business to Sony.

Sony is discontinuing some of its own products. Company representatives said on Thursday that it will stop making plasma-display TVs, a competing technology to its popular liquid-crystal displays. Sony will also stop developing its Aibo entertainment robots, but will continue to support the existing Aibo products.

The company is also discontinuing development on the super-high-end Qualia line of audiovisual products, which had been touted in 2005 as one of Sony's turnaround tickets.