Commentary: Top products with high 'wife-acceptance factor'

commentary A few years back, I wrote a blatantly sexist column entitled "Taking the sting out of the whip," which addressed the then-relatively new phenomenon known as Wife-Acceptance Factor, or WAF for short. The idea for the column came to me when a couple of junior editors on the Electronics team commemorated my getting hitched by creating a mockup of Fully Equipped with the title changed to "Fully Whipped" and tacking it to my office door. As a headline, they wrote: "Honey, is it all right if I spend $50 at Best Buy?"

Today, WAF is one of those dirty little secrets of the electronics world, and it's both openly discussed and rarely talked about, because it's now integrated into the DNA of so many products. It's not always called WAF, because, after all, not everyone is married, but it's become fairly common practice for manufacturers to market electronics directly to women as they wink at men. Just take Sony's slogan for its Bravia LCD TV ad campaign: The world's first TV for men and women. Of course, there've been plenty of unisex TVs for a long time, but it sure helped out a lot of guys to have that female-approved label right there on the box. (It also seems to have helped Sony, as the company made huge gains in the LCD TV market after initially misjudging the demand for flat-panel displays).

The beauty of WAF is that it empowers you to spend large sums of money on sleek electronic gear without the slightest bit of guilt. And the manufacturers know it. That said, WAF is evolving. Like a few years ago, the WAF world is still largely about nonintrusive electronics taking up as little space as possible or, better yet, being completely invisible. Rear-channel speakers for surround sound? Sorry, that's not always possible in WAF-land. A 61-inch rear-projection HDTV that costs a palatable $3,500? Try again. The missus prefers the 60-inch plasma that's double or even triple the price but most likely doesn't perform as well. (All right, maybe not the best example--the overwhelming majority of guys are likely to opt for the allure of the flat-panel too, whether or not a significant other is involved.)

But while you can still find plenty of high-end stuff to overspend on, an increasing number of affordable products are loaded with high WAF quotient. And it isn't all about just trim good looks anymore. WAF now has a deeper side--personality counts now, too. There's the whole ease-of-use thing we hear so much about. And the fairer sex actually does recognize when a product performs a cool function.

With that in mind, as we head into the holiday shopping season, here's my list of top WAF-friendly products. (Note: The female members of the CNET editorial staff wish to point out that there is a non-gender-linked counterpart to WAF: Significant Other Acceptance Parameters, or SOAP--but it's just not all that catchy.)

So what's the item with the highest WAF factor? Check out these 10 spouse-friendly gadgets.

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