As new Microsoft CEO makes entrance, Sony mulls PC exit

Sony has been one of the top laptop players in the Windows market. But the Japanese company is now in talks to sell off the Vaio line.

The day Microsoft announced a new CEO, word came from Japan that Sony is trying to exit PCs.

Whatever Sony ultimately does, it’s a clear signal one of the top brands doesn’t see PCs running Microsoft software as an attractive market anymore.

“Sony’s planned sale of its personal computer operations underscores how far this business has fallen in the eyes of Japanese and U.S. manufacturers,” an editorial said in Japan’s Nikkei on Wednesday.

Sony established the Vaio brand in 1996 when Microsoft and Windows 95 ruled the world. At Sony’s peak, it shipped close to 900,000 units a year. In 2013, it’s expected to ship fewer than 600,000 units, according to IDC estimates.

Not surprisingly, the impetus for the expected sale is financial. The company’s consumer electronics operations — of which the Vaio PC line is a part — continues to operate in the red and it PC group is facing an operating loss, according to Japan-based reports.

Sony wouldn’t be the first Japanese player to bow out of the PC business. NEC, once Japan’s top domestic PC brand, handed over control of its PC business to Lenovo in 2011.

And even Lenovo, which is vying with Hewlett-Packard to be the No. 1 global PC maker, is putting increasing emphasis on smartphones these days, evidenced by its planned purchase of Motorola’s handset business.

By selling the Vaio PC business, Sony intends to accelerate its shift to smartphones. And Microsoft has acknowledged this global shift in its own way with the purchase of Nokia’s mobile devices unit.