In an article in today’s Technology section, Asus aims for the ‘gorgeous’ market, I’ve tried to provide some insight into how Taiwan’s PC business is developing. Basically, some of the leading OEM/ODM suppliers are trying to develop global brand names because the OEM/ODM business — making systems that sell under names such as Apple, Dell, HP and Lenovo — can easily be moved to Chinese, Vietnamese and other cheaper manufacturers, leaving you with nothing.
One of the keys to having a viable brand name is having innovative products, of which the Asus Eee PC S101 netbook (see Asus launches fashion-friendly Eee S101 MacBook Air killer and Picture special: A fashion-conscious look at the Asus Eee PC S101 launch) is a good example. It invites people to pay a bit more for something that looks and feels much better — and is noticeably thinner — than the bog-standard netbook.
Asus’s design lab in Taipei has also been experimenting with natural materials that could give notebook PCs a more distinctive appearance. These should stand out from the crowd — being distinctive both for Asus and its customers — and could therefore appeal to more upmarket users.
Henry Yeh, general manager of Asus’s Notebook Business Unit, describes them as “high sense” products: they should appeal to all your senses, but especially touch. “When you touch a natural material, you feel warmth,” he says.
Asus started with leather, “three or four years ago,” and now has a bamboo model, which I tried in the design lab. It looks much better than I expected, and it certainly feels nicer than the usual plastic/metal notebook.
The design does involve work beyond the veneer: Asus has tried to make sure the handrests stay cool, to protect the material. But how well it will age is anyone’s guess.
Yeh says Asus has built 200 units to introduce the bamboo notebook to the market. Then “we will see customer feedback.”
It might be worth grabbing one as a collector’s item, and they’d look nice in a design museum. But as a user, would you actually buy one?