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Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Teen-only PC: the 'hip-e'

Hmmm. Will teenagers want a PC just for them called the "hip-e"? That's the $64 thousand-(or million-)dollar question for Digital Lifestyles Group, the Austin-based company that makes it. Like an iPod, it's mostly white and, like a cell phone or an IM service's graphical interface, it has customizable "skins" (e.g., fuzzy pink faux fur, a leopard or graffiti look), CNN reports. To get to a teen level of hipness (after talking with a bunch of teens), the company set out to "Apple-ize" or "iPod-ize" the PC. Quite naturally, the hip-e's a communications hub and entertainment-media tool, not a work station. It's wi-fi enabled (for wireless connecting), can be synched with a cell phone (on the Sprint network) and connected to a video game console, a TV tuner, and a MP3 player/keychain data-storage drive, and it has a huge hard drive for tune and video storage. For young consumers, it includes "a prepaid debit account that teens or their parents can put money into, to fund the cell phone, online shopping, or music downloads." Digital Lifestyles reportedly has done of ton of teen-focus-group testing, but we wonder if teens will go for something actually designed to be cool. The company's smart about this, for sure, though: they know that if the thing's designed for 16-year-olds, 14-year-olds (and anybody younger who's heard about it) will probably want it more. It's pricey at $1,699; the company explains in its marketing message to parents that they save by not having to buy a TV, MP3 player, video player, boombox, and PC separately (if the child doesn't already have most of those things). Here's gadget blog Gizmodo's take, and the hip-e's own Web site.


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