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CES 2011: Sony Shakes Up Notebook Lines

LAS VEGAS – Sony Electronics will load up on new notebooks and
all-in-one PCs at CES, but has pulled back on the netbook front.

The company will also expand the retail presence of its high-end Signature
line of laptops and AIOs by adding several regional retailers and specialty
chains in the coming months as it rolls out new products in that line, said
Brian Nowlin, product manager for Sony’s networked technology and services

However, while expanding the availability and number of
higher-priced models, Sony is turning away from the netbook category, Nowlin

“We are just not focused on it any more. The market is different
from a year ago,” he said.

Instead Sony is rolling out the new YB Series of ultra-portable
laptops. The 11.6-inch screen models will be powered by AMD’s new line of
Fusion processors. Nowlin said Sony went with AMD because its processors are
outperforming Intel’s Atom for this level of product.

Nowlin said Sony intends to put downward pressure on the netbook
category with the YB models, which will have a $549 starting price point yet
deliver a full function notebook experience.

The YB notebooks lack an optical drive, way about 3 pounds and
are intended for students and those who need a fully-functioning notebook.

Stepping up from the YB models is the S130. With prices starting
at $899, these models are powered by Intel Core i3 and i5 processors, offer
discrete graphics and have an optical drive bay.

In the next price band is the SA series, replacing Sony’s
well-respected Z Series.

These feature an aluminum/carbon fiber chassis and new hinge
design. These offer Core i5 and Core i7 processors, discrete graphics and an
improved 1.3-megapixel webcam.

Two additional major changes were made from the Y Series.

The first is the inclusion of a hard disk
drive on the entry-level priced models, whereas the Z series only came with
solid state drives. Nowlin said this was done to help keep the price down to
below $1,800.

The other feature is an optional “sheet” battery.
This is an 8mm thick battery that fully conforms to the bottom of the laptop
and simply snaps on. The $199 battery doubles the 6.5 hour battery life, Nowlin

Sony will show two new laptops and an AIO
in its expanded Signature Series. Over the last few years the Signature models
were designed by well-known artists and sold through Sony Style on a very limited
basis. This had been done to make a design statement and raise money for a charity.

This concept was somewhat expanded last
fall and it will be taken to a new level in 2011, said Kevin Sather, Sony’s
product manager, IT and portable audio division.

Sony will introduce at CES two new
chassis, the CA and CB, each featuring a staggeringly bright fluorescent color

The 14-inch CA and 15.6-inch CB come in
bright green and orange, along with a more subdued black. Each features an HD
webcam, high-end graphics and processors.

These will only be sold through Sony’s
Signature Dealers program, which includes stores like Micro Center, Fry’s Electronics
and Datavision, Sather said.

Sony will also offer a spring promotion
with these laptops that has the company’s Imagination Studio 2.0 preloaded onto
the machines.

Pricing has not been set, but the CA is
expected to cost just over $1,000, while the CB is just below that price mark.

The Signature roll out includes one AIO
model, the L210. This has a 24-inch multitouch screen, wireless keyboard and

Sony expanded the touchable area on the
screen to the the black glass section near the bezel. Each portion can control
a specific often used function like on/off and swapping between applications.
Sather said this was done to cut down on fingerprints marks on the more heavily
trafficked parts of the viewing area.

Other options include in and out HDMI ports,
TV tuner and hand gesture software that works in conjunction with the webcam.

This is connected to the media
applications and allows users to change songs or photos by swiping their hand
back and forth in front of the camera, like turning the page on a book.

There is also a non-Signature version of
the AIO that has a slightly different industrial design and will come in at a
lower price point.

Sony’s computer segment will also test
the 3D waters for the first time at CES with the addition of the F210 laptop.
It has a 240MGz, 16-inch display, is bundled with one pair of glasses and will
carry a $1,699 suggested retail price.

Sony believes 3D laptop owners will use
it more for 3D content storage and editing, as opposed to consumption, said
Sather. The growth of 3D digital and video cameras will require a computer for
editing and personal content creation, he said.

The company will include some basic
software, but is working something more advanced for future release.