Friday, January 1, 2010

Shiny black plastic: please die

While everyone else is probably thinking this year about how to better themselves through laughable New Year's resolutions (a little tip from yours truly: to really commit to something, try not attaching it to an arbitrary date. Weight-loss in particular. You're giving yourself a ready-made "oh, well, I'll try again next year" excuse. Solve your problems now), I'm thinking about others' problems, being the grumpy old man that I am.

Today's unlucky sap is the consumer electronics industry and the customers thereof who value looks above all else. You two are collectively responsible for my single biggest irritation as a sometimes-buyer of gadgetry: shiny black plastic.

I was just musing about this problem this morning over breakfast, with my Eee PC 1000HE and my LG Rumor2 sitting on the table. Both are arrayed in the stuff, but not just that: an array of palm-prints and micro-scratches also mar their otherwise attractive surfaces.

This bugs me every time I look at the things. They are meant to be held, picked up, manipulated (and in the case of the Eee, even the wrist rests sport this abominable finish; truly disgusting). The finishes are not meant for this; they are meant for people looking at lineups in stores to go "ooh! shiny" and thus discount rational thought for the actual capabilities of the device in favor of visual appeal.

I thought Nintendo, my perennial love/hate relationship, finally got this when I laid hands on my Nintendo DSi. This delightful device manages to still look really good while not being shiny in the slightest—in fact, the surface is just heavenly, providing fantastic grip without feeling rough... it's perfect. But then, with their super-sized DSi XL (not yet available outside Japan), they went back to that glossy crap finish again, the one that made me glad the Lite came in white.

So what's it going to take to get the industry off this tack? Well, apparently, consumers have to start actually looking at what their devices do instead of how they look. Judging from a colleague's tale of how his family almost selected almost-certainly-horrible-to-use touchscreen phones over the supremely-functional yet not-particularly-attractive enV3... well. Not a lot of hope there.

Capitalism works so well in theory, but man, you put consumers in the mix and things just go totally stupid.

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posted by zigg 9:49 AM 0 Comments