I rarely get paper-based mail anymore and to be honest I hardly ever get the kind of press release I did the other day.
Acme, a hardware vendor from a little town outside of Los Angeles called Azusa, Calif., sent me news on a product called Lunchbox computer.
Now I have received literally thousands of crazy product pitches in my time, but this one was unique. First it reminded me of poor old Wily E. Coyote, the Warner Bros. cartoon character who always sends away for some explosive contraption from Acme in hopes of destroying his archenemy the Roadrunner. As we all know, Wily E. Coyote was always on the wrong end of those Acme explosions.
The Acme I’m talking about, on the other hand, is an Azusa-based manufacturer of rugged computers, predominantly for law enforcement forensic units. If you have seen any of the CSI TV shows you’ll know what I mean.
The other thing the media release reminded me of was the old Hong Kong Phooey lunch box I carried around in elementary school. Hong Kong Phooey was a Saturday-morning cartoon dog that knew karate and beat up on bad guys. Now, as I got older the lunch box became passé and only the brown bag would do. (I have to explain this to my non-Italian readers out there. I am of Italian decent and went to school with other Italo-Canadians. The kids from my school heard stories that other schools actually had prepared meals for kids, cafeterias and some kids even brought lunch money. You see, no one from my school had their lunch money stolen because no one had lunch money. Our lunches were a smorgasbord of Italian cuisine. The sandwiches we had were better than the $8.99 specials at Subway you buy today. But I am getting off topic.)
Acme’s lunchbox really isn’t a lunchbox at all. In fact, it is a huge portable computer with 17-inch non-glare, detachable 108-key keyboard and seven open card slots. Imagine dragging your desktop PC around for field service calls and you get the drift on the type of computer Acme is offering here. The reason they call it a lunchbox is the style of case being used. It is a shock-resistant aluminum case. The computer weighs nearly 18 lbs., or 8 kgs, and should be lugged rather than carried. It has dual cooling fans and shock-isolated CD and DVD drives.
What Acme is pushing here is a rugged notebook similar to the ones that Stealth, Panasonic and HP manufacture. This US$3,799 rugged PC cannot hold anyone’s lunch, unless it is a stick of gum. But why would you?
I can’t see it as a great selling feature. It’s similar to other interesting but yet unsuccessful attempts to brand PCs such as the Green PC, the Ferrari notebook, the Hummer PC, the NASCAR PC, the Barbie PC, and the Hot Wheel’s PC. None of these machines gained any level of success because the customers were intelligent enough to know they were gimmicks.
Computers are what they are. And, as the IBM PC celebrates its 25th anniversary next month it has become a necessary tool to solve business problems and to drive efficiency in the workplace. It doesn’t matter if it’s a notebook, desktop, workstation, server, handheld, or mainframe. Computers are essential to business or the home as the telephone is. You don’t see MaBell coming out with Get Smart Shoe phone, do you?