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Former Alienware developer invades the customized-PC space

New company, NVousPC, specializes in notebooks with personalized designs. But is there room for another enthusiast PC company?

The wacky Web 2.0 train has just collided with the computer hardware industry.

The idea of user-generated PCs isn't groundbreaking, but the level of creative control that buyers have is broadening. Take NVousPC, for instance (after you've figured out how to pronounce it, of course. Take your time). The new company, launched today, hopes to cash in on consumers who want to exercise complete control over the appearance of their notebooks.

An example of custom paint from NVousPC NVousPC

The president and co-founder of NVousPC is former Alienware product development engineer Oscar Zapata. He escaped from his former employer a week before the company was snapped up by Dell. His new company is hoping to cash in on to the whole "PC as fashion accessory" trend by offering ubercustomization. So the boring black notebook gets a makeover, but it's more Pimp My Ride than What Not To Wear.

NVous customers can configure a notebook online, then upload images that can be plastered on the lid. The panels can also be painted any color. Seriously.

Not only can you choose sea-green or purple stripes, you can get really silly with glow-in-the-dark, pearl and something Zapata calls "color shifting." NVous also lets customers work with an in-house designer to fine-tune the look. Alternatively, you can send in your current notebook for a custom paint job, too.

The actual machines are also customizable. The 14.1-inch Mercury and the 15.4-inch Ether notebooks have a minimum 1GB of RAM and an option to upgrade to an Intel Core 2 Duo T7600 processor and Windows Vista. Customers also have the choice of hard drive, Bluetooth modules, an optical drive and more. The Mercury starts at $1,099, and the Ether at $999, and the base price is $186 for custom design, and it goes up from there.

Zapata says he sees a demand among a very specific niche of PC enthusiasts: rich college kids.

"We're going for a specific culture within the college market--the more upscale college students with expendable income, that Mom and Dad are putting them through class and looking for machines to distinguish themselves.

Does this mean the new status computer on campus will be not one with a glowing apple on the lid, but rather one adorned with, say, a picture of your cat, or painted chrome or chartreuse? Fantastic.