Toshiba pimps its portables

New laptop model aimed at "design-conscious" consumers and professionals, but vendor plans to offer personalised designs, starting in France.

Laptop PC vendor Toshiba has launched a new, limited edition laptop in what the company says will be the first in a range of personalised computers.

The Portege M800 limited edition has a 13.3 inch screen, a built-in webcam and a DVD multidrive. The computer, which is finished in pearl white, comes with either the home or professional versions of Windows Vista.

The move is part of a wider programme by Toshiba to make design a central feature of its laptop range. In France, the company is working with artists and fashion labels such as Agnes B to create limited edition or collectable computers.

"The project involved looking at how artists can work with functional designs," said Ian Spero, chief executive of Bigtime Productions, which is working with Toshiba on the project. "When the technology itself becomes redundant, the laptop should become a piece of art with its own value."

Last year, Toshiba started working with Coovz, to allow buyers of its laptops to order customised artwork for their lids of their laptops.

According to Emily Shirley, head of product marketing for Toshiba Europe, consumers and business users are increasingly likely to want to personalise or customise their laptops.

"We want to sell the right product to the right people," she said. "It is a personal device. That applies more and more to businesses too. Businesses were scared off by design, but corporate customers have started to complain about [being issued with] ugly laptops. It's not good for the image of the company."

Research carried out by industry analysts Forrester found that US computer buyers ranked good design almost as highly as a manufacturer's warranty or bundled software. PC makers will increasingly offer customisation and niche designs as laptop sales grow, not least because a high-design model attracts a premium of between $125 and $250 (65 and 125) over a standard model.

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