Comdex Report: iMac-alikes Abound

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"Those women folk, they always want a computer that matches their decor." My cab driver snorts derisively as he says this.

Rainbows of brightly colored computer cases were a common sight at this year's Comdex.

I am on my way to my first Comdex show, and this is my first trip to Las Vegas. I have been an assistant editor at Macworld for three months. And here I am, minutes from the show floor, arguing with my cab driver, defending the fact that colored computers are not girly. I suddenly become painfully aware of the fact that I am wearing an iMac-blueberry blue dress. I match my G3 desktop perfectly. This is not on purpose, and I'm about to tell him so, but I stop myself.

"Men, they don't care about that kind of stuff," he says. "I mean, a pink computer?! You've got to be kidding." He shakes his head.

"Actually, a lot of men seem to like the iMac," I say. I shut my mouth about the iBook.

"Yeah, right," he grumbles, but I detect a note of uncertainty.

"Really," I say. "They even came out with a computer that's transparent. The men seem to love it."

"A clear computer, shit," he says. "I mean, it's not like it works any different, right? Who cares what it looks like?" He throws his shoulders back in a little manly-man gesture. But at this point, I can tell he's intrigued.

Eupa's angel and devil speakers are sooooo cuuuuute!

I arrive at the show. The floor is filled with manly men. Manly men typing on transparent keyboards; manly men handling blue, green, purple, and orange mice; manly men getting visibly excited by yellow, blue, and even pink computer cases. But these computers aren't Macs, so it's okay.

"This is a PC company, sweetheart," a manly booth man tells me when I inquire whether his translucent mauve USB mouse is Mac-compatible. He emphasizes "PC," as in "PC, a real computer." This is a phrase I'll here often at Comdex. "We make PC products," he repeats. "But aren't they pretty?"

An Intel booth displays some wild designs.

"Yeah, real pretty." I turn towards a booth filled with blueberry, grape, tangerine, lime, and strawberry computer cases.

"I call them iMac-alikes," the man says with a wink. Personally, I call them cease-and-desist orders, but I return his wink with a chuckle and shuffle on down the aisle.

I am at the Sands Convention Center, where the OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers to the uninitiated) show their stuff. And this year, it's all about color and fun. Intel has a booth right outside the floor, and it's filled with space-age inspired computers. A Taiwanese company called Eupa has a pair of speakers designed to look like an angel and a devil. Cute. But most of the designs seem to spring directly from the Apple lineage, even using the exact same colors (see " Separated at Birth." The strange thing is, while men complain about girly iMac colors and iBooks they say look like purses, it seems okay for them to like a colored PC, and they're all acting like this is the latest thing. And here I thought color was last year's news.

Change your mood, change your color. Snap-on computer cases are as fun as it gets!

All of a sudden I'm reminded of the days before Windows, the days when PC-heads mocked the Mac OS. "Aw, how cute," they'd say mockingly, "the little files actually look like little file folders." They'd turn back to their PCs, secure with the notion that typing obscure lines of code like "

C:>dir /s /w | more
" made them worthy of The Machine. And then Windows came out, and suddenly little file folders actually made the computer easier to use and that was okay. And now colored PCs are here, and it's okay to touch a purple mouse.

No, really, it's okay.

Assistant Editor FRITH BREITZER covers displays, imaging, and systems for Macworld.

Separated at birth?

Apple obviously inspired the color choices of many computer vendors at the Sands Convention Center. But some of the designs may need a little work.

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