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Notebook Industrial Design

In this ever-changing world, technological possibilities in the form of laptops are a dime a dozen and to many, it is no longer just a matter of possessing a suitably-priced laptop with the functions they need. More so, it’s about a fusion of an expression of one’s own fashion and general functionality. So, it would hardly be unreasonable to expect a consumer to pass up on a particular laptop if it fails to capture the sort of image he wishes to project, bearing in mind that even heavy duty IT geeks these days have fallen under the spell of design and will no longer suffer hardcore-looking laptops just because they provide all the functions needed. After all, the serious geek in the office next door has all the same functions in a much prettier package, so why shouldn’t you?

There are various laptop designs in the market in terms of Colour, Material and Finishing. Broadly speaking, the laptops in the market can be categorised into three overlapping groups, keeping in mind that there are always several ways of classifying anything, so no classification is set in stone. The three classes are the i) Ultra Mobile PC, ii) Ultra Portable PC & PC for the Fashionista, and iii) Desktop Replacement & Functional Laptop.


Ultra Mobile PCs (UMPCs)

The laptops that fall under this category are by definition comparatively tiny, usually being small enough to fit into a handbag to be easily retrieved anytime. Most UMPC manufacturers play it safe when it comes to colours, going largely with black or white, the latter if the manufacturer is trying to up the chic factor. Given that UMPCs are still in their fledgling stage, it is not unlikely that you’ll find many basic-looking ones in the market, almost like a single black slate with the screen taking up most of the horizontal surface – not quite the ideal fashion accessory.

Often, UMPCs don’t have the luxury of a real keyboard and rely instead on a virtual touch-sensitive screen. This of course affects the appeal of the UMPC as a whole since not having a keyboard definitely means that the UMPC is losing out on design possibilities where a funky keyboard is concerned. Add to that the tactile sense a user gets striking the smooth keys of a keyboard versus purely punching in information on a virtual screen.

While weight is not a consideration of this article, it invariably finds its way into the discussion on UMPCs because the heavier UMPCs require the use of two hands, meaning you can’t type effectively as most of it, particularly the centre of the screen, is out of reach from your hands, demonstrating how form factor affects function and everyday use.

Some UMPCs have an edge over the rest, at least where design is concerned. These feature a keyboard which slides out of the main body, only to be able to slide back in to look compactly chic, and then out again when there’s a need to be functionally trendy.

The better designed UMPC is like a smaller version of the notebook i.e. it opens up with a screen on one side and a keyboard on the other and its entire size is like that of an organizer. Of course, the ultimate UMPC will have this feature and more – like a swivel screen that can even be flipped around to double up as a screen for digital input via a stylus, i.e. a tablet-convertible UMPC. Available in both black and white together with its unique 3-in-1 usage, Fujitsu’s LifeBook U1010 falls into this category and because of the effective way it has fused form and function, the U1010 is a prime example of a UMPC that straddles categories and can comfortably be classed in the next category of PCs as well, i.e. the type that appeals to fashionistas.


Ultra Portable PCs & PCs for the Fashionista

This next category is itself kind of a composite category. While it would be great to neatly split up these two laptop classes, the truth is that many manufacturers believe that fashionistas will accessorise themselves only with items that are not too cumbersome; thus, most of the ultra portable PCs also happen to be the notebooks that appeal to fashionistas. Hence, it makes much more sense to talk about the two categories together. Also, this is where competition across manufacturers seem to be the most keen these days.

We have a spectrum of possibilities and some of these notebooks are without a doubt fashionably sleek and unbelievably slim. Still, others prize being functional as highly as being portable, thus coming in tough magnesium alloy casing or being ruggedised in other ways. Others are light-weight but precisely because they are made of the same material used for airplanes and race cars – carbon and glass fibre. And some others simply have durable carbon fibre construction or magnesium alloy to make them geared for tough business use.

It is also here that one will definitely find an explosion of psychedelic colours with inventive and catchy colour classifications to encapsulate various personal preferences. In addition to graphic names that evoke a vivid mental image, some brands might take the direction of embellishing the chassis with leather, linen-like or cupboard finishing. While the Fabric PC is on Fujitsu’s cards, at the moment, Fujitsu focuses mostly on sophisticated high quality finishing that will ensure durability and lifelong use, while at the same time opting for classic dual tones of basic colours that have timeless appeal.

Some manufacturers claim that their tablet PCs are so touch-sensitive that the feeling of scribbling with the stylus against the screen practically re-creates the sensation of writing on paper. Those who fancy going back to basics with handwriting will be happy to know that Fujitsu is a brand with an extensive range of tablet PCs, and provides the electronic equivalent of many different writing pads and hard copy notebooks to choose from.

Fashion has become so much a way of life for many that even the less costly notebooks these days feature sleek and smooth curves. Then again, some laptop manufacturers have raised the bar on their own, even coming up with a remarkable design that is almost ultra-everything in its recyclable aluminum enclosure that is so thin it can fit into a manila envelope.

Fujitsu’s mobile computer designs, though not in the same league of its more fanciful counterparts, maintains the brand’s foothold in this area with its simple and ergonomic designs that always pleases its sophisticated target audience. In addition, Fujitsu endows its customers with the capacity to project that stylish corporate image when they carry with them their Fujitsu LifeBook notebooks such as the ultra portable LifeBook S6510 and the sophisticated LifeBook S7211.

That being said, there are always those who prefer to have it all – a notebook which is ultra portable, fashionable, stylish and premium all at once. The Fujitsu LifeBook P8010 covers all these winning points with its timeless clean-lines and fuss-free housing replete with glossy aesthetics and a hallmark line accent. Together with its gleaming signature chrome hinges that enhance the overall appeal and functionality, the P8010 exudes style. And thanks to Fujitsu’s SlimEdge Design innovation, users get to enjoy an additional 33.8% display area as compared to laptops of the same form factor.


Desktop Replacement & Functional Laptops

In this category resides some ‘monster’ laptops with massive screens ideal for gamers and movie-watching. Naturally, if one is shopping for a laptop to substitute one’s desktop, it makes sense to pick one with a generous screen size, and powerful sound and processing capabilities for these functions. Typically, the attractiveness of the design is often not an issue with shoppers in this category, so many of the laptops here are mostly basic-looking – having a great design is more of a bonus than a must.

Fujitsu laptops of this category carry a more standard business professional look with a minimalist design but with hints of design details and a good quality finish to cater for those who still appreciate good design with a standard full-featured notebook. Among its tablet range in this category, the notebooks usually feature a large glass cover on the display surface with a glossy finish on its other side, sometimes with a rounded side wall and wedge look design to be ultimately both simple and sleek. Often, to ensure maximum usability, the screen and keyboard frames are thin but house a wide LCD and keyboard respectively.

Fujitsu notebooks in the multimedia desktop-replacement group, such as the LifeBook N6460, focuses on making it totally delightful for gamers and movie buffs to experience astounding picture quality and true-to-life movies and graphics on its 17-inch, high clarity, SuperFine widescreen display. This LifeBook cleverly delivers design to fulfill intuitive desires through an application panel that comes complete with buttons for volume control and visual optimizer, toggling between the movie viewing and work mode. To round off this category, we should consider the general no-frills laptop seeker who is not a fan of size but seeks the functional. He or she can sometimes come across notebooks that are small and inexpensive but built with a solid and semi-rugged construction to withstand wear and tear. Obviously, he or she doesn’t expect pretty colours or avant garde designs for a notebook in this class either. To this end, Fujitsu does it nice and simple with its V series that features a range of comprehensive features such as a brilliant 15.4-inch SuperFine LCD display and offers protection against accidental spillage through a handy Spill-resistant Keyboard.


Staying ahead of the Game

Given the countless permutations of laptops according to features and spanning across these categories, how then does Fujitsu stay ahead of the game? Simple, Fujitsu thinks out of the box, or in this case, outside the categories outlined and considers laptop development in light of usage scenarios, i.e. how the laptop to be designed will be used by its users.

To ensure that it covers all possible bases, Fujitsu thinks across two continuums of design possibilities, which are i) how PC literate its users are; and ii) their mindsets (whether a user is conservative or progressive in style). The space created by these continuums represents the entire spectrum of possibilities and hence all Fujitsu laptops fall somewhere in between. So, instead of thinking along the lines of catering to consumers via fluid categories, Fujitsu considers how technologically savvy its consumer is and his or her style preference, thereby ensuring that no consumer’s interest is missed out. By doing so, Fujitsu can provide for a variety of users, i.e. professional users, mobile users (business and leisure), standard users (Internet), creative users and all other users that fall into yet unnamed or unconsidered categories.

However, catering to a consumer is not enough, pre-empting his or her need in the future is an important next step. To this end, Fujitsu Design Limited’s Chief Designer himself, Mr Kenichi Kimura, is a firm believer in ‘reverse engineering’, i.e. not just creating laptops to fit the usage scenarios of today but to consider the usage scenarios of tomorrow and then develop laptops for these so that when these future usage scenarios eventually become the present reality, the laptops are already built to provide for them. Now we all know why Fujitsu works so hard in this area – because to them, the possibilities are infinite.