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Intel likes a touch of suede

Chipmaker sees virtues--and maybe profits--in veering away from "monotone grays and blacks" for laptops. Photos: Intel's touchy-feely laptop

"Chic" was the word on Intel's lips this week as it showed off a new line of concept laptop PCs that the chipmaker believes brings a luxurious personal touch to mobile computing.

Acting some years after Apple Computer made the iMac and the iPod into fashion icons, Intel has decreed that the laptop PC does not have to be "confined to a world of monotone grays and blacks."

Now soft-skin laptop PCs are poised to break into the fashion spotlight, Intel claimed. The company has teamed up with Toray Ultrasuede, made up of self-described "leaders in technology and fashion," to come up with a selection of suede-covered laptops.

The concept Intel Centrino-based laptops fit "ultramicrofiber Ultrasuede fabric" directly into their casing. There are no current plans to release the notebooks to the public.

Citing research, Intel said 73 percent of U.S. adult computer users want to buy technology products that reflect their personal style. Of those who admit to glancing at others' laptop PCs, 76 percent are checking out its style or design, the chipmaker said.

Forty percent of U.S. adult computer users think their current laptop is generic, boring, dull, sterile or lackluster, and 60 percent would like to be able to "customize their laptop with options , patterns and fabric," Intel said.

"Intel's technology innovation, coupled with the plush luxury of Ultrasuede fabric, offers a marriage of form and function with unlimited potential for fashionable personal expression," according to Jodi Geniesse, consumer mobile education manager at Intel.

But Intel will face some competition if it ever tries to target the high-end laptop market. For example, the Acer Ferrari already offers Italian styling and Ferrari Formula One chic.

Colin Barker of ZDNet UK reported from London.