Monday, 1 December 2008

Notebook computers & (female) UK consumers

So a survey of UK consumers, published in November 2008, conducted for computer microprocessor corporation AMD by market research outfit YouGov, found that we Brits (77%) value having Internet access over a car (54%) or washing machine (66%).

That's the bit that's been getting the most headlines.

I want to pick up more on the part that (according to the Netimperative news report) claims to show, in relation to notebook computers:

"Women surveyed fall into the ‘Mobilites’ category, as portability seems to be a more important buying factor - almost half (46%) voted weight as one of the important factors, compared to just 39% of men."

I think the emphasis there perhaps isn't quite right.

To me as a female, yes weight is one of the most important (if not the most important) factor for me when buying a laptop computer - but it's not because I value greater portability or mobility as such over other factors like speed or features. It's because I need portability, period.

Let's face it, women are on average physically less strong than men. That's simply a general fact. We just can't lug around heavy stuff as easily as big men can. For women, yes, size does count!

Something that's "portable" for men may not be portable at all for women.

There's no point in a laptop having all the latest technology, fast processor and whizzy graphics if its weight is such that it's not in fact practicable for me to carry it around with me.

That's why my cut off point for laptops is now 1 kg. If it weighs over 1 kg (like the HP Mini-Note) then I won't consider buying it as my portable computer, no matter how sophisticated or indeed good value for money it is otherwise.

I'll just look for the best I can get that's under 1 kg - i.e. I look only at "sub-notebooks".

It's not a question of levelling the playing field, but of enabling me to get on to the playing field in the first place!

If all "portable" computers were lighter than 1 kg, then I'd be considering other factors. But for now, weight is what counts the most with me - purely because if it isn't light enough for me to carry around with me comfortably, then it's as good as useless to me.

I'm sure I'm not the only consumer who takes this approach - it's not just women but teenagers / children too, and indeed men with back problems, and people generally who value their backs, who will prefer ultra-portable UMPC (ultra mobile personal computers) and netbooks.

It's great that netbooks are increasingly being produced in greater quantities. But there need to be even more of them, and even lighter, smaller ones. It's a big marketing opportunity which I hope computer manufacturers will run with - that would be good for all of us. And maybe one day I'll have my dream gadget of a netbook that's as small and light as a Psion 5mx, with as touchtypable a keyboard - but with a mobile phone and wifi too...

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