updated 10:45 pm EDT, Sat March 19, 2011
Sony rumored for VAIOs with Thunderbolt, Chrome OS
A pair of rumors from a historically accurate source have Sony planning two ultraportable VAIOs, one of which could be its direct answer to the MacBook Air. The centerpiece, nicknamed the Hybrid PC, would by itself be a fast ultralight with a Core i7, an SSD, HDMI 1.4, WiDi and a weight of just under 2.5 pounds. When docked, however, the system seen by Sony Insider would turn into a full desktop replacement with a Radeon HD 6700M (Whistler-XT), a Blu-ray burner, and full expansion with Ethernet, VGA, and a unique connector that merges USB with AC power.
The system would also supposedly preempt Apple's head start on Thunderbolt by including the connector itself. It's unclear if this would be used to supply the connection from the dock or would be used to handle fast external storage or other pro peripherals. Thunderbolt supports daisy chaining and could do both.
A launch for the Hybrid PC would contradict Intel claims that Apple had a year of exclusivity but would also support beliefs about early development; along with Apple, Sony was also said involved in early feedback on Thunderbolt when it was still called Light Peak.
Battery life away from the dock would be eight to 16.5 hours depending on how aggressively. It wasn't said whether an extended battery played a role. Release schedules were also uncertain.
The second design would be an 11.6-inch Chrome OS netbook but would buck expectations of an Atom-based design. Sony's would use an NVIDIA Tegra 2, giving it eight hours of battery life and relatively fast graphics. It would have just 1GB of RAM inside, but the lighter footprint of Google's web OS would offset the difference. Storage would also go beyond spec with a 16GB flash drive instead of the minimum 8GB, and the choice along with the mobile processor would keep the weight at just 2.2 pounds. Some form of 3G or 4G would come built in.
Google may be rushing the OS, the source implied. Bluetooth and GPS would be present in a summer launch, but they wouldn't be enabled until a software update sometime afterwards.
Both the Hybrid PC and the Chrome OS design would signal major shifts in Sony's approach to the ultraportable category. It has previously tried either small performance systems with weight and thickness closer to traditional notebooks, such as the VAIO S and Z, or else high-speed Atom netbooks such as the VAIO P or the VAIO X. The Hybrid would be an attempt at a no-compromise system and could be the first more overt challenger to the modern MacBook Air where most are either refreshes of existing PCs.