The VAIO Z Story

Azumino Factory Outside

The guiding hand of Azumino

keeps VAIO moving forward.

After the press conference in Tokyo had ended, Kasai, one of the PM’s who manages the VAIO development site, headed back to Azumino. Although the clock was about to strike midnight, bright light poured from the factory windows. When the team members saw Kasai, they came up and asked, “Oh, how was it?” The fact that they were working so late and that Kasai would come back immediately after the conference felt completely natural. How did this team, with all of its members unified by the single phrase – “will create Z” – develop the VAIO Z? The story began when they were trying to choose the concept that would become their guidepost for development.

The concept “to create the ultimate tool” was familiar to the VAIO Z team. It has been an enduring theme in each of the successive flagship models from the first generation Z up to the Duo 13. “We intend to break through the limits of each era,” explained Kasai, “and not compromise or neglect the challenge to fill every product with the value customers require. Our focus never wavers. We are continuously creating Z.” Inheriting the spirit of the pursuit of the ultimate, while still embodying new technology, VAIO has now placed itself as a leader in the new order of PC manufacturers. This model was destined to claim the title of “VAIO Z”.

The big question in this age is, what direction should you take PC development? As a tool that offers the most options for users, what kind of values should be represented? We kept returning to the concept of the PC as a tool. Just as smartphones and tablets have rapidly evolved efficiencies, we strived to expand the values that only a PC can make into reality by improving “productivity within business”. “A person conceives ideas and makes decisions while using a PC,” explains Kurosaki. “We want to respond to such needs as quickly as possible without the user wasting even a second. If we can dramatically improve universal response time, we can comfortably say that is the best value of a PC as a business tool.” And in keeping within the general framework of evolving into a business tool, these same things can be said about the VAIO Pro, which was offered prior to Z.

So, what was different about the goal for the VAIO Z? “Response” was the key word that kept surfacing within our discussions. A PC which can instantly reflect the user’s input, just like a car with a high performance engine responds by pressing the accelerator. We aim for consistency with an overwhelming response time, and mobility at levels never achieved before. We believe that this is the path we should pursue to highlight the unique strengths of VAIO, and be the answer for the next generation of PC users. “Response” – with this guiding principle rediscovered, the development of VAIO Z began moving forward.

 

Azumino Factory 2

 

In order to create the ultimate,

We must be the ultimate team.

In order to achieve the upper limit of business productivity, you must have consistent a response time and mobility. And once you have a fixed developmental direction, the basic specs will become clear. First, the “high performance TDP28W processor,” with its unimaginably thin thermal power design for a PC, was adopted without hesitation in order to achieve the response time we required. Specs such as “InstantGo” make a 0.3 second start-up possible. A “high capacity battery” that can free you from the worry of a charge for an entire day. A durable 2-in-1 flip mechanism for personalized use.

At this point, dozens of team members were gathered to ensure everyone understood the thoughts behind the decisions Kasai had in the initial stages of development. This was also when VAIO became its own corporation. And while the organization changed, what had to change as well was the mindset of team members. A lot of attention was paid to this process, which would previously have been unimaginable. Why is the 2-in-1 not the surf slider (the mechanism which converts with a single, sliding touch on the LCD tablet) adopted in the VAIO Duo 13 (on sale 2013)?

Why was the flip mechanism adopted? Because true innovation cannot be achieved unless all concerns about what we create are understood by each team member. “This has left the greatest impression on me,” said Suzuki. “Yes, it took a long time, but a sense of unity was born within the development team.” There were a few team members who were unconvinced despite all of the attempts to bring them onboard. They wanted to be heard one last time, and so they approached Kasai individually to make direct, personal negotiations.

“They didn’t look like they wanted to discuss anything – they were just being defiant,” explained Kasai. “But their passion was proof that they were taking the product very seriously. They evolved and eventually made the team stronger. That made me very happy.” Changes to daily tasks were adopted as we became a new company, and all departments, including design and manufacturing, were relocated to the same floor. If you always have a dedicated team ready to answer a question like “are there any issues today?” then productive discussions can be had, and decisions can be made on the spot. We have also been able to eliminate useless meetings.

 

VAIO Z Prototypes

Even we have to laugh

At the extent to which

We’re agonizing over each step.

This interview was done just before the VAIO Z announcement was made, and when asked how he feels now that everything is over, Kasai immediately responded, “We have left nothing undone.” Every time they put out a new product there is usually a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. But engineers are never satisfied. They speculate that “maybe we could have investigated this part more thoroughly.”

However, this time they did not feel that way, and it is because they have pride in knowing that they did their best within the allowed time constraints, and right up until the last minute. Manufacturing is generally comprised of 4 trial processes. The “Prototype” is where they test the large experimental electronic circuit board known as the breadboard. “EVT” is the stage where the circuit board is made according to actual product size specifications. “DVT” is where the metal mold of the device is created, and “PVT” is where mass production is tested. The last PVT is restricted to check the viability of mass production. It is very rare that changes to the product are made at this stage.

VAIO Z experienced a number of unimaginable changes where the team had to go back to the DVT stage of production. “This is counter-intuitive for most manufacturers. It was even the first time I experienced such a thing in my career,” said Kasai. Under normal circumstances, a team will say, “there is no way we’re doing that,” but our development team responded differently because they knew more could be done. “And while we never actually said it out loud to each other, each team member decided on their own that ‘we can’t do it’ could never be our response,” explained Suzuki. The extraordinary decision to overcome risks and make the impossible possible – that is the genesis of the monster known as VAIO Z.

“The other reason why this is the ultimate machine is the high level of craftsmanship achieved on parts that are not even represented in the spec chart, but that kind of attention to detail had simply become part of our process. I believe the sturdy, tactile feeling you get when closing the LCD is the best example of this,” said Kurosaki. And because it’s the VAIO Z, all individuals involved in the development can confidently say that it is the “ultimate”, and that it is also shamelessly filled corner to corner with their earnestness. So, with what kind of earnestness was the main electrical circuit, the core of the VAIO, created? And what is the reason behind calling the main electrical circuit the “engine”?

Read more in Vol. 2.

See the VAIO Z that the development team has created here.