Thursday, October 25, 2012

To pink or not to pink it, that is the question

What a furore I have seen this week in the tech press about Fujitsu’s latest ultrabook launched in Japan. It has been designed by female engineers at Fujitsu in Japan and is aimed at the female market in Japan. It is an elegantly designed piece of kit with smooth lines and some feminine details that, no doubt, will appeal to some. And actually, the pink one is a very pale pink and some people like pink things so why not?

So what’s the fuss about? Well, the Western media, particularly female journalists, have taken offence to the advertising video and the press release which they feel is patronising. It probably is. The apps the laptop comes with have been derided as one of them is an astrology app. For that target market, that app may be entirely appropriate – I don’t know the market well enough to judge. I know I would find the scrapbook app useful – not for shopping for shoes, but for keeping track of craft projects I might like to do, articles I want to read again and recipes I want to keep. And maybe they did get the tone wrong, but I have no problem at all with bringing elegant design into computing. I’d like to see more of it. We use these things day in day out and to have something that is more pleasurable to use because it appeals to your aesthetic sensibilities is great. If you like a bit of bling, why not show that in your choice of laptop or how you choose to decorate your laptop?

But what price does that come at? Are women being ripped off? Well, it looks like we are in this instance. I’ve had a cursory glance at the specs of the new Floral Kiss and the Fujitsu Lifebook UH Series laptops to see how they compare. The Lifebook spec seems to be very similar (perhaps someone more familiar with laptop specs would like to comment?), and it also looks to be a stylish piece of kit. And it works out about £200 or so cheaper than its equivalent Floral Kiss model. Now I haven’t seen either model in the flesh so it’s hard to compare the quality and the workmanship, but I’m pretty sure that they will be of a similar high standard. These are, after all, premium products.

I don’t know how the launch has gone down in Japan. I suspect there are many women there who are up in arms about it too. Equally, I expect there’s a whole bunch of women, probably young women, who think it’s lovely and would like to own and use one. The real point here isn’t that they’ve chosen to make a laptop with a feminine design, and I can even live with the patronising tone of the marketing video and press release if it’s priced fairly and we’re not being taxed for being stupid women. Therein lies the real rub. Adding a crystal to the adapter lead is not worth two hundred quid to me…

On the other hand, I’m really interested to learn more about the female engineers who worked on the product and how and why they designed it like they did. I wonder what their vision was and if it was delivered?

Further References:

Original press release

Floral Kiss Facebook Page

Belinda Parmar’s article at HuffPo

CNet article

Even the Daily Mail is critical

The Mary Sue doesn’t like it much and some of the comments are interesting

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