The VAIO P's designer spills some secrets

Sony's VAIO P may or may not be a netbook (or even fit in a pocket), but there's no denying that it's an incredibly sexy piece of hardware -- it's hard not to be immediately taken with it, at least until you see how slowly it runs Vista. (Windows 7 is a different story, obviously.) Of course, there's a story behind the unique form factor and crazy 1600 x 768 screen resolution, and designer Takuma Tomoaki shared some choice tidbits recently in an interview with Chinese site cool3c. Of particular note, the P was inspired by the Mini Cooper, which Tomoaki called "small and sophisticated," and the entire design was dictated by the size of the "smallest usable keyboard." Tomoaki also said that the insane screen res was aimed at HD movies, since it can play back 720p content natviely, and that Sony's looking towards integrating the P with both the Walkman and PSP families -- something it's already kinda-sorta doing with the XMB interface on the machine. Plenty more quotes after the break and tons of pics at the read link, like this early VAIO TT-esque mockup that likely launched a thousand Photoshops. Read on!

[Thanks to Andy Yang of Engadget Chinese for the translation!]

  • The VAIO P has its roots in the Mini Cooper, Takuma Tomoaki's favorite car. They're both small, but sophisticated.

  • The VAIO P is designed around the "the smallest usable keyboard" -- everything else (such as the near 2:1 screen ratio) is a result of that decision.

  • There was a debate on whether a 16mm pitch or a 17.5mm pitch should be used for the keyboard. They settled on 16.5mm.

  • The depth of the VAIO P was decided to be 120mm exactly.

  • A larger panel was planned in the prototype, but reduced to make more room for antennas on each side.

  • One of the requirements was that there be no stickers on the bottom.

  • The top side is made from aluminum alloy, the bottom side carbon fiber, and the inside plastic -- a compromise between weight and strength.

  • Takuma Tomoaki also designed accesories to go with the VAIO P, but they were ultimately dropped because of high costs -- the red one above would have gone for $1000.

  • Noise reduction headphones will come with the highest spec'ed VAIO Ps.

Some questions and answers:

Q: Why such a high resolution screen?
A: Because the VAIO P is designed with HD movie viewing (720p) in mind. Hence the 1600x768 resolution.

Q: Any possibility of an interaction between the VAIO P and the Playstation family?
A: Yes. Not just the PS3 and the PSP, we're also considering integration with the Walkman family.

Q: Why use a thumbpoint instead of a touchscreen?
A: Because of three reasons -- power, thickness and costs.

Q: Will the external monitor port support a resolution of 1680x1050?
A: Yes. Whether it is supported or not is a matter of Intel drivers.

Q: Was the VAIO P claim influenced by VAIO C1?
A: The VAIO C1 is a classic, and of course influenced the design of the VAIO P, but while the C1 was for spec fanatics with no concern to aesthetics, the VAIO P's design is centered on aesthetics.

Q: Will the instant-on be available on other VAIO family products?
A: No plans made at this moment.

Q: Will the VAIO P be downgradeable to Windows XP?
A: No drivers are currently provided for Windows XP. Any OS upgrade and downgrade will be considered.