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Windows 7 owners may never get driver upgrade support from Sony it appears

Sony Corp.'s (TYO:6758) VAIO line was an interesting proposition.  At times it flirted with brilliance in design, hardware, and packaging -- strengths that some believe Apple, Inc. (AAPL) modeled the MacBook family and iPhone after.  But the brand was also known to invoke sticker shock with its high prices. And Sony's customer service could be remarkably mercurial at times.

Last year Sony spun off the PC unit, selling a 95 percent stake in it to Japanese venture capital firm Japan Industrial Partners Inc. (JIP) for a cool  JP¥40-50B (~$330-$410M USD).  But part of the deal terms involved Sony committing to provide "ongoing support" for legacy devices and the current VAIO lineup.  And that means the brand continues to suffer from Sony's soft touch -- and by soft touch I mean "penchant for controversy and odd edicts".

Case in point is Sony's bizarre "do not upgrade" notice/threat to VAIO owners regarding the recently released (free) upgrade to Windows 10.  Sony's support site proclaims ominously (as noted by Neowin):

DO NOT UPGRADE YET.
To ensure your VAIO PC works with Windows 10, it is strongly recommended that you wait to upgrade your PC until the drivers are ready.

Sony do not upgrade
What?

The proclamation is rather bizarre when you consider that most hardware makers work directly with Microsoft to pre-certify their components to work across a variety of laptops.  Now, Sony is one of the few OEMs who does make some electronics modules first-hand, so it's possible it has some oddball parts (think webcams).

But that still doesn't answer the question of why Sony is having so much difficulty porting its drivers to Windows 10, particularly when Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) sent out many explicit warnings to hardware makers to remember to sign their drivers.  And even if Sony was grossly negligent enough to forget to sign its drivers, most previously certified drivers work just in Windows 10 (and when they don't there's the troubleshooting mode).

Further muddling the picture is the comment:

Sony is preparing to provide information about our Windows 10 Upgrade program for supported VAIO models. Please see the release schedule below for upgrade information, drivers / applications, and upgrade instructions.

Wait -- which is it, the drivers, or the applications?

Sony Windows 10 upgrade

If one were to get conspiratorial, given Sony's history of obtrusive DRM (habitual installing rootkits and other sneaky low-level monitoring software/firmware) one must wonder if the real hangup is the fact that Windows 10 is now too secure for Sony's shenanigans.  I'm not suggesting that's the case, but given Sony's history I wouldn't be shocked to discover that was part of the problem either.

Sony promises it will have "upgrade instructions" available by the end of this month for owners of VAIO devices that shipped with Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 (the OS versions that are eligible for a free upgrade to Windows 10).  But from there things veer off into crazy territory again.

Here's Sony timetable for actually providing the drivers:

Sony Windows 10

So officially, it's stating that it won't have Windows 8 and 8.1 VAIO device drivers/software ready until a full 3 or 4 months (respectively) after the OS launch.  Talk about tardy.  It seems Sony believes that its PC customers don't have anything better to do than sit around and wait for it.

And more alarming still is the timetable for Windows 7.  Sony isn't saying when it will offer Windows 10 drivers (and software) for Windows 7-era VAIOs.  That's leading some to speculate that it's planning on simply commanding Windows 7 VAIO owners never to upgrade to Windows 10.  And there's legitimate cause for concern.  Sony's support page, states in the sidebar:

Sony will not be providing support for all models that qualify for this upgrade.

It appears owners of Windows 7 VAIO laptops may find themselves forced into a troubling deceision -- miss out on Windows 10, or lose their Sony support.  One thing's for sure -- even in its quasi-decoupled relationship, Sony is still finding fresh ways to make PC shoppers realize that buying a VAIO is a foolish choice.  Sony will be Sony, it seems.

Sources: Sony Support, via Neowin





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