Amazon.com overcame one of its last hurdles to CE retail parity earlier this month by winning Sony's blessing to sell a selection of its products online.
Following a two-phase test involving authorized sales of Clie PDAs and digital cameras that began earlier this year, Amazon finally received the green light and launched an officially sanctioned Sony store in mid-June. Amazon is now authorized to carry Sony's Clies, digital cameras, camcorders, Vaio notebook and desktop computers, monitors and Net MiniDisc portable music recorders and players, although TVs and DVD players are still off limits.
Despite Amazon's leadership position in e-commerce, Sony withheld its authorization from the e-tail giant long after some three dozen CE selling sites received theirs. While the vast majority are online offshoots of established brick & mortar chains, several direct-to-consumer dealers, including Crutchfield and former CE pure-play 800.com, were also among the Sony select.
Sony's reluctance to bring Amazon on board may have stemmed from the e-tailer's steadfast sale of unauthorized Sony products despite protests from the manufacturer. The breakthrough is believed to have come last December with the arrival at Amazon of CE retail veteran Frank Sadowski, who, as chief merchant at 800.com, was responsible for forging online relationships with key vendors, including Sony.
Sadowski, VP/consumer electronics merchandising at Amazon, said the company is now buying Sony merchandise direct from the manufacturer and hopes to eventually expand its authorization to other products and categories. He added that the "overwhelming majority" of new CE products sold by Amazon are now sourced on an authorized basis.