Jennifer Hawkins, Erin McNaught and Laura Dundovic. What do these three glamorous ladies have in common?
No, it’s not that they have just represented Australia in the Miss World pageant. Rather, all have been involved in notebook launches. Asus signed on Hawkins and McNaught, while MSI more recently called on Dundovic to showcase the design and fashion elements of its mobile machines.
“For every product of ours there is a design phase, and we focus a lot during that phase on various industries and their trends,” Fujitsu director of marketing Asia-Pacific, Lim Teck Sin, said. “Which industry do you think would affect the design the most? It’s fashion – because choosing the colours and materials reflects a person’s presence. You can tell a lot about a person from the notebook they carry.”
Lifestyle notebooks – machines that people carry with them for both work and personal use – are a blossoming trend within a world increasingly blurring the work/life balance. Whether it’s sleek and professional, or downright sexy, people are buying notebooks that make a statement.
“Lifestyle products have to appeal and generate the passion in potential customers. When they look at it, the user needs to think ‘oh, that’s a beautiful product’,” Lim said.
DROWNING IN ACCESSORIES
The desire to personalise has led to an upturn in the number of notebook accessories sold. Whether it’s driven from a need to be more connected while mobile, or simply to be able to watch movies between conferences, people are adding and customising.
“At the moment, people are buying 3G dongles with their notebooks,” Intel director of marketing, Kate Burleigh, said. “With time, and some vendors are already offering this, you’ll see an increased number of notebooks offering in-built 3G.
“People are also looking at a lot of sticker art that goes on the front cover of the notebook – whether it’s a picture of your favourite dog, or a corporate logo, or a simple colour. People are further personalising by sticking their name onto the notebook and hanging things off it.”
Acer product manager for commercial notebooks, Chris Osbourne, pointed out nobody wanted to carry a bag of accessories around. As a result, he claimed people were avoiding smaller and less featured notebooks as primary computing devices. While some users select a 13-inch or 11-inch notebook, 14-inch models with an optical drive will remain the most popular, he said.
“If people can share a network drive or have USB-connected devices, then they might choose a smaller model, but it kind of defeats the purpose of having a small and light notebook if you have to carry a bag full of accessories around,” Osbourne said.
Acer is one of many vendors also focusing on maximising online connectivity for road warriors.
“We’re getting a lot of resellers asking for 3G,” Osbourne noted. “It’s not something we’ve promoted in the past, whereby one module will cover all the quad-band frequencies. The 3G opportunity is quite big – there are a lot of people out there with 3G dongles who are sick of them breaking.
“Anyone with 3G or remote wireless technology is running Skype or can be connected all day over the wireless 3G connection – so there’s a lot more Web-centric applications being tied into notebook usage.”
Mirroring fashion trends is the desire for notebooks to be thinner and lighter.
“People’s expectations for the robustness of the system don’t change [the thinner it gets],” Lenovo business development manager, Otto Ruettinger, said.
“It’s also important to make it as attractive as possible. We still believe in a classic design that doesn’t age. When you go to a Qantas club or lounge and look at the notebooks in there, you can tell when one is over three years old. Our goal is to for people to have difficulty doing that with ThinkPads.”
Although many professionals want to check in with family and friends while waiting for a flight, not everyone wants to lug a fully-featured notebook around. This is where the netbook steps in.
Initially targeted at consumers, IDC PC analyst, Felipe Rego, said these lightweight devices are starting to gain traction within the business community.
“You see a lot of executives taking the netbook computers to different workshops, and using it to check emails – not necessarily for work,” he said. “For work, they will also look at spreadsheets and documents with a bit more clarity than can be done on a smartphone – so it helps them keep in touch there too, especially with the growth of 3G and mobile broadband.”
Lenovo’s Ruettinger agreed the netbook lended itself as a companion device. “It will fit in a woman’s handbag, and is sufficient for Skype, Facebook and emails, yet aside from education the netbook has not had as much success as we would like in the SMB market,” he said. Custom accessories that can be packaged into an overall netbook sale is one way for the channel to get involved in the lifestyle play, according to HP’s director of product marketing, Tony Ignatavicius.
“There is a segment in the market that needs versatility in the way it uses technology – we call it the prosumer space, and it’s an incremental opportunity for the channel,” he said. “These users are business owners relying on the small business reseller to provide advice, set-up the local area network, provide service and maintenance, so the customer has built a relationship with its channel partner.
“If the reseller can identify a need for technology to span across both business and home use and select the right products for that, then there’s opportunity.”
TAKING NOTEBOOKS PERSONALLY
Notebooks – and technology in general – have become a deeply personal area of interest for consumers and businesses. Whether the individual prefers the classic professional look of a Lenovo, or buys into the Ferrari or Lamborghini branding that Acer and Asus have respectively toyed with, people want to make decisions about the notebooks they use. And ultimately, each vendor within the space is looking to give the market choices.
“The development work we do is in looking at the lifecycle drivers that will really affect our technology – and that is driven by observing other technologies and personal consumer electronic devices,” Intel’s Burleigh said.
“We’ve seen a rapid growth in personal ownership of these devices. Once upon a time the desktop would be used by the whole family or office, and while people might still be happy to share a desktop, people are proving to be really reluctant to share their notebooks – they see it as a real extension of their personality.”
So, what does your notebook look like?