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Swedes add style to Toshiba notebooks

Asserting that today's computers have become faceless and interchangeable, a European company morphs notebooks into the "Jackie K," the "Working Snob" and more.

    If you've been putting off purchasing a notebook computer because your favorite portable did not come in such colors as caf? au lait or pistachio, you have no more excuses.

    Asserting that today's computers have become faceless and interchangeable, a European PC company, called Toshiba Nordic, has teamed up with Swedish firm Futurniture to create four stylish versions of Toshiba's notebooks.

    Dubbed Le Tosh, the new versions of the Portege, Satellite, and Libretto notebooks--called "Working Snob," "Tank," "Jackie K," and "White Box"--come in a range of colors and styles to fit customer personalities.

    Each model also comes with a characteristic carrying case. The Jackie K, for instance, comes in a retro leather case, while the two-tone Working Snob comes with a black leather satchel sporting a racing stripe. Artsy shots on the Le Tosh home page show the notebooks in action.

    The venture essentially takes the "fashion first" argument--first put forward with Apple's iMac--one campy step further. In the Le Tosh vision, the computer becomes less a productivity tool, and more an electronic accessory for the urban sophisticate.

    Currently, Le Tosh computers are available only in Europe. A spokesperson for Toshiba in the United States noted that the Nordic Toshiba subsidiary is not affiliated with the American Toshiba subsidiary, but otherwise declined to comment on the venture. Although the Le Tosh Web site uses the Toshiba trademark, the exact relationship between the two companies is unclear.

    "Toshiba Nordic, with the help of Futurniture designed four different models that are all based on standard Toshiba models," said company representative Christer Lindstrom in an email interview. "The four models were all painted in Sweden."

    Focus on color, material
    Le Tosh is aiming to shake up the priorities of the PC world, where "advances in computers have been so extremely focused on the technical; color and material have not been tenable arguments for helping sales," said Lindstrom, in a statement.

    "We think that people now want personal products that say something about the person who owns them. This is exactly what has happened in the development of things like cars, stereo equipment, and most recently, cell phones."

    Le Tosh is clearly not for every PC user, and not just because the notebooks are only available in a few Scandinavian countries. "These computers have their own identities, which in turn brings up thoughts about different lifestyles," said Dan Grettve, project manager at Futurniture, in a statement.

    Possibly to head off these potential inventory problems, Le Tosh is selling the notebooks directly to Nordic customers through its Web site. This manner of distribution may prevent the company from ending up with extra White Boxes, for example, in the case that the Working Snob version alone ends up flying off the shelves.

    Working Snob is a jazzed up version of the Portege 7010 ultra-portable notebook painted chocolate brown and "caf? au lait," according to the Le Tosh Web site. The Working Snob costs approximately US$5,245.

    Return to nature
    "Snobs work harder today than 30 years ago, but they don't work at the office. Instead, they've returned to nature. They sit under trees, or rock back and forth on horses," the site says. "But there's one thing that still holds true: It doesn't matter what you do, as long as you do it with style."

    The Tank is described as a "modern toolbox," targeted at the "young workers of the Information Age." The Tank is based on the Satellite 4030CDS, and is priced at US$2,802.

    For women, Le Tosh designed the Jackie K in pistachio and cream. Based on the Portege 3010, the pastel case is designed to appeal to the "1990's sensibility of the sharp, modern woman." The Jackie K costs approximately US$3,731.

    "Jackie was wronged. Terribly wronged," the site asserts.

    Finally, the White Box is a minimalist white-on-white version of the Libretto 110CT in a black carrying case, priced at $2,867.