Spring brings splash of color to laptop aisles

Aspire One "Happy" seriesGuest contributor Deron Kershaw is a market analyst for Gap Intelligence.

Roy G. Biv is about to make himself comfortable in the notebook section at your local retailer. Manufacturers are preparing to deviate from the standard black and grey color schemes and will soon produce configurations in a variety of colors. As tablets are increasingly seen as the hippest new device on the block, PC manufacturers are being forced to compete for coolness, if only aesthetically.

For low-priced mini netbooks, color is the main appeal. Since the vast majority now feature the same 10.1-inch display, Atom processor, and 250GB hard drive, color has become the easiest way to differentiate between models. Consumers have begun treating netbooks as an accessory, rather than a computer. And what’s cooler than being able to match your netbook with your shoes? Here’s a rundown of the major PC manufacturers’ plans to make computing more colorful:

HP

HP Mini 210

In January, HP launched its Mini 210 netbook line that comes with a plaid pink casing with a fast 7200RPM hard drive, selling for $299 at Best Buy. HP’s low-priced Pavilion G-series is now available in a variety of colors and patterns, a departure from the drab silver designs found on most current G-series models. The new colors include Butter Gold, Luminous Rose, Sonoma Red, and Sweet Purple.

Acer

Aspire One "Happy" series

Just in time for Easter, new Aspire One “Happy” series netbooks have all the pastel colors covered including: Candy Pink, Lavender Purple, Lime Green, and Hawaii Blue.

Sony

Sony VAIO C

The Vaio C notebook line radiates light (literally!) around the logo, touchpad, and the notebook’s edges. Neon orange and neon green versions is now available through Sony’s website and are expected to become available to the retail channel in the coming weeks.

Asus

Asus U43F

Even some higher-performance laptops have experienced a splash of color. Asus continues to expand its bamboo-paneled U43F notebook line, launched last August, as a first for the industry. They look a bit like those classic old Woodie station wagons without surfboards. Asus has since released two additional configurations, the latest with a Core i5 CPU, 640GB hard drive, 6GB of RAM, and 8-cell battery for $779.

Dell

Dell Inspiron R

Dell has probably taken color customization the farthest. As of last week, Dell’s popular Inspiron R notebooks now come with the ability to swap out lids with over 25 different colors and designs. At the end of 2009, Dell partnered with nail-polish maker OPI to use their hues in casing colors, which brought about some of the worst names I’ve ever heard: “La Paz-itively Hot” (pink) and “I’m Not Really a Waitress” (red). Thankfully, Dell has gone back to more normal colors like Lotus Pink and Tomato Red for the popular Inspiron and Inspiron Mini lines, but even the standard options still have funky names like Mars Black.

Samsung

Samsung 7 Slider Tablet

Samsung had a series of red notebooks and netbooks on shelves at Best Buy during the holiday shopping season. Now, the company’s new Sliding 7 Series hybrid netbooks, which will become available this month, look even sharper and some configurations feature a vibrant blue keyboard.

Lenovo

Lenovo IdeaPad U260

The new IdeaPad U260 line hit shelves last week with bold new color options including Clementine Orange and Mocha Brown. At CES, the world’s largest consumer technology tradeshow, unreleased teal blue IdeaPads were also on display.

A rainbow of choices

It’s only natural to shop with our eyes, so luring consumers in with visuals is a smart marketing tactic. But how does a Peacock Blue laptop’s functionality measure up? Quite well, actually – Dell’s Inspiron 14R-1296 comes with more than just a cool blue casing. The line also sports WiMax connectivity and Intel’s Wireless Display technology, which allows you to stream content to your TV without any cables. For $599, it’s a great deal. But check your newspapers, HP’s refreshed Pavilion G series is launching with an array of new colors and is typically the best value for mainstream notebooks. HP has a knack for integrating color into the overall design of its notebooks (beyond just the casing) and the refreshed series should be no different.

The flood of color is reminiscent of what happened to the digital camera industry five years ago. In 2006, after years of pumping out black and silver cameras, manufacturers responded to consumers’ desire for personalization by offering proven series in pinks, blues, and reds. History has a funny way of repeating itself, and now it’s the laptop industry’s turn to show some personality. Maybe that plaid pink netbook really is for you?

About the author: Deron Kershaw is a market analyst for Gap Intelligence, a San Diego-based independent technology research firm with emphasis in helping product manufacturers and retailers understand current retail market trends in order to respond to customer demands as they occur. He can be reached at dkershaw@gapintelligence.com.

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