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September 23, 2009

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PC makers finally embrace cool, trendy designs

SAY goodbye to the "black brick" laptop. The era of the plain, dowdy PC is officially over.

As computer makers roll out their new notebooks and netbooks ahead of the year-end holiday shopping season, razor-thin, sleek and colorful are most definitely in, as are arresting designs in an ever-expanding array of choices.

Hewlett-Packard Co and Dell Inc are now more likely to point to subtle etchings in the exterior shell, or a famous artist behind a new design, than to the "speeds and feeds" that PC makers used to tout when they wrestled for superiority.

It was only a few years ago that most laptops were some variation of a dull box that came in gray or black, with the exception of Apple Inc, which was making distinctive laptops back in the 1990s.

Now, design is permeating the PC market like never before as the increasing commoditization of machines leaves few major differentiators on performance, so a stylish case is one of the last remaining areas of competition.

Ed Boyd, vice president of design for consumer products at Dell, the world's No. 2 PC maker, arrived at the company nearly two years ago from Nike Inc. He said the PC market is transforming in the way that athletic shoes did.

Nike "took a commoditized product - sneakers - and made it hip and cool and relevant," he said. "What you're witnessing is the same transformation in the PC business ... this phenomenon is crossing both the enterprise and consumer space."


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