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The Times this week, in a story about a new line of “stylishly designed” electronics from Memorex targeted at women, asks if women are getting the gadgets they deserve. I would answer no. Women (and really everyone) deserve gadgets that are easy to use. And a hot pink, handbag-shaped iPod speaker dock from Memorex wouldn’t change the fact that I have to spend hours tweaking my home network or updating my iTunes software in order to set up a music playlist for a party.
According to Kasia van Hall at Memorex, which surveyed 1,500 women, the company concluded that:
“Women want to know about technology, but only just enough to get a taste of it. Of course not all women feel alienated in the electronics market. However, the majority, even if they are up to date with technology, simple [sic] don’t have time or energy to read long instructions and play with cables.”
I think that describes more than just women. Right now, those dominating the conversation about gadgets are a unique breed of people (mostly men but women, too) who like playing with them. So the fact that they have to mess with cables, install the latest version of Java or go out and buy an adapter to get something to work isn’t a dealbreaker; for them it’s kind of fun. They’re problem-solving. I feel the same way about building model train tracks, but ask me to spend more than five or 10 minutes setting up my phone and I want to rip out my hair. I think many consumers are like me (some probably have a slightly longer attention span).
To be clear, I carry a pink BlackBerry. My 2-year-old picked it out for me, saying I should “pick this one, because it’s pink.” In the end I went with it because I don’t really care what color my phone is, and it made my daughter really happy to see me take her advice (so far I’ve ignored her recommendations on sparkly shoes and cookies for dinner.) But electronics companies that are simply slapping a coat of bubblegum-colored paint on their products are targeting people who think at the level of my toddler. She’s smart, but I’d like to think that the majority of gadget-buying women out there are smarter.
Women don’t want candy-colored gear. Like most people, they want gear that works when you pull it out of the box and continues to work, without constant updates, even when you bring a new device into the ecosystem. That’s hard for consumer electronics companies to do, so I can see why they instead hope women, who tend to buy a lot of the home electronics gear, simply view the gadget world through rose-colored glasses. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go update my iTunes software again.