If a personal computer is an extension of one’s character, then many business and home users are guilty of being unstylish and perhaps even a little dull.Run-of-the-mill black, beige and grey desktops and notebooks fill workstations and home offices. But a growing breed of themed personal and mobile computers are making a noticeable splash in the IT market.
Catering to a niche of style-conscious notebook users, Acer Inc. launched its Ferrari branded mobile computer in 2000, to not only further its sponsorship relationship with the Italian car company but to drive its own brand awareness.
“We’re not under any illusion that it’s going to be a huge volume product for us,” said Richard Black, Acer’s director of marketing.
“This will never be positioned as a product that is a lower end value type of proposition. It’s going to have a higher price point.”
“It’s very much like the Ferrari cars — you’re paying a bit more but are getting a high performance system.”
The latest model in the Ferrari series is the 4000 which sells for US$2,199.
The company also recently announced a Ferrari branded 20-inch LCD, currently available in both the U.S. and Canada, which Black said takes on the flashy design characteristics of the notebook. It will run for US$599.
According to IDC Canada analyst Eddie Chan, the concept behind themed PCs is to drive some differentiation among vendors in the marketplace.
In the notebook space, PC makers will start jostling for positions based not only on new colour schemes and design, said Chan, but in areas like wireless connectivity, biometrics, feature sets and ergonomics.
“In terms of product commoditization, vendors are trying to embrace various partnerships to help reflect some differentiation or draw an installed base of users,” said Chan.
In Acer’s partnership with Advanced Micro Devices, “AMD has been trying to get the message out about the raw horsepower of its processors,” he said, making the relationship an ideal fit for the Ferrari brand.
Stuck as a concept
But sometimes manufacturers’ creative ideas and innovative prototypes don’t make it out the laboratory doors.
Late last year, Lenovo Corp. garnered two design awards from the prestigious German design institute, Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen.
The two concepts include Lenovo’s Yoga notebook which features a 180-degree adjustable display for multiple viewing angles and the Sundial PC, an ultrathin PC with a rising stand and interactive touchscreen.
Whether either concept will ever see space on retailers’ shelves is irrelevant, according to David Hill, executive director of Lenovo’s identity and design.
“Concepts are ways that we can push the envelope to determine how we can create a new user experience or a completely new idea for how you might envision a notebook,” he said.
“This is all part of a methodology that we use to identify opportunities by understanding customers current wants, needs and frustrations.”
Experimentation of this kind is a key component of Lenovo’s strategy, said Hill, so often design in this area never completely makes it to market in its original form.
“It may come to market in bits and pieces, there might be some innovative aspect of the way the keyboard works or the way the display has adjustment, or the use of some innovative material that might trickle its way into the market over time,” he said.