Well, when MightyGadget got the opportunity to visit Paris on an all expenses paid trip to have a ganders at the latest Toshiba gear the answer was already set in stone (that would be a resounding yes if you hadn't already got it). Take a closer look was the objective and that is exactly what we had the chance to do. The newest, smallest, lightest, fanciest pieces of kit in Toshiba's arsenal were presented to us with the purpose of letting you know just how fantastic the future is looking for you lucky laptop using public. Now, not only were we asked to make our opinions and discuss the future with some of the top bods but we were also granted the opportunity to mingle with some of the top journo's in Europe, all eager to get their grubby little mitts on the kit aswell.
The main focus of the jaunt across the channel wasn't to tell us what components were being used or how cheap the laptops were but more to delve further into the world of Toshiba and what really made their developers and designers tick. The whole ethos of Take a closer look is the idea that we are entering a new age of style. We have had laptops in our homes and businesses for many years now and the general aesthetics haven't really been altered dramatically since their inception. Toshiba have always been forerunners when it comes to bleeding edge technology and with their first dip into the mobile market being some 20 years ago with the T110, they obviously know what the consumers wants. Out of interest, the T110 was also the very first IBM compatible mobile PC and has set the trend for every machine since. The features we take for granted were present in that very first piece of kit: internal rechargeable batteries, an LCD screen, an internal media drive and compatible with other PC's. We can look across the range of hardware available from any vendor and quite happily say that those features will be present in each. That's quite a feat in itself to set a trend that has spanned 2 decades and is in no danger of changing any time soon. Toshiba have stepped up to the plate once again and have addressed this lack of innovation with a new range of laptops which fundamentally push the boundaries to a higher echelon previously set by only them. They strook me as a company which keeps the consumers unrecognised needs at the forefront of their development to attract those souls, lost in sea of ever expanding laptop confusion.
To set the scene, upon our arrival our first port of call was to attend a function at one of the top Parisian haute cuisine restaurants. Armed each with an apron, mysteriously provided by the Toshiba boffs with no explanation, all were herded into a cab and driven to the secret location. Upon arrival at the restaurant the Executive Vice President, Alan Thompson, gave a little welcoming speech to inform us that the evening ahead was to give us a little insight into the event and asked us to take a closer look at the food we were to indulge in. Have any of you heard of an Amous Bouche before? I'm guessing that 90% of you haven't and the rest have but haven't a clue what it is. Let me indulge your curiosity. An Amous Bouche is French for ‘to titillate the palate'. As the description implies, one would assume that this is a small taster of the meal to come and would not necessarily be the primary source of the proceeding evenings ingestion. This is where the point of this little soiree comes in. To satisfy our hunger we had to indulge in the offerings available at each table, manned by an assortment of important looking chefs. Each table had a mixture of different ingredients with which we could mix and match to make our own micro tucker creation. It is in this very process that we had to really think about the elements making up our tea. Whilst impressive in the scale and an innovative idea, my constitution is not agreeable with this type of fare. On the flip side, there were many different varieties of aperitifs to quaff and were consumed with the event spirit very much in mind.
A successful evening was had, many people spoken to, though not necessarily about the event in all honesty, and an insight into the inner workings of the Toshiba clan was glimpsed. The morning-after-the-night-before, we were once again ushered along to congregate together at Le Studio, one of the top Parisian photography studios. We were greeted with a short introduction once again by the Vice Pres, Alan Thompson, before being sat in one of the studios to be presented with the event outline and then partake in a Q&A with some of Toshibas top bods.
First up we were graced with the presence of research analyst, JP Gownder, to provide us with an overview of the current laptop situation today, the past innovations and the future of the mobile technology. He was very passionate about the idea that whilst new products are being presented to the public with all the latest gadgets forced into the tried and tested cases, the aesthetics are being overlooked with no thought for the end user. I see there are already a few of you sat there eagerly raising your hands in my general direction in order to catch my eye. I would assume that you are going to inform me that ‘Apple did it first'. Well done, congratulations, Blue Peter badge for your astute eyes. Apple have had a long relationship, balancing style with content, however they are only interested in acquiring customers who are happy using their own proprietary OS, software and peripherals.
Shoot me now if you want, an Apple fanboy I certainly ain't. I am well aware that there are now ways of putting Windows on there, running other software via Virtual PC or getting 3rd Party accessories. The point I am trying so vehemently to get across is that Toshiba are attempting to bring products to market which reflect the user’s personality rather than it being a reversal of roles. People see you out using an Apple Air and immediately assume that you are at the cutting edge, you're cool; you drink coffee in Starbucks and go to the opening of new clubs. People see you with a bland, dark grey brick and the vision is slightly different. You are put into the immediate category of boring, sat on the sofa watching corrie, playing poker online in your underwear, sad sack with no sense of style even if the style tree landed on your head. Just to clarify, my laptop is neither grey nor boring so I am fortunately not talking from experience, well not all of it anyway. I digress, my point being is that people are now starting to realise that with the influx of Apple products hitting the market at more attractive prices and with their looks and ergonomic styling, cost and specifications aren't the only qualities consumers are looking for. Another point raised was the area of functionality. I remember when laptops were the gadgets to have at management level when I was first doing work experience all those years ago. They were hideous, they weighed more than a home PC, if you used it as marketed, on your lap, it was strongly suggested that if you were male not to bother as those things we all cherish as men would disagree and possibly drop off (this may be an exaggeration on my behalf but probably not a million miles from the truth). Toshiba have drafted in some of the worlds top designers and engineers to redress this situation and are attempting to make PC laptops a more desirable accessory rather than just a plain-Jane necessity. The industry as a whole is slowly maturing and warming to this way of thinking but haven’t really made any headway and are quite happy with a few small cosmetic changes to make the newest model a little more aerodynamic than the last or squash it down to make it more portable. The consumer isn’t as daft as the manufacturers would like to believe and are noticing the switch to the coffee house fashions, watching them jump ship faster than they can try and provide the boring life rafts. What we really want these days is a fast yacht, with an exclusive party happening on-board to beckon us aboard the new era of style.
Enough of the scene setting, I’m betting you all want to know what the Toshiba team have been beavering away at?