05/09/2008 20:28 | By Elizabeth Woyke

Stop and smell - your laptop?

Just when you thought the digital world was as in-your-face as it could get, it gets a little closer. Right up under your nose.

Asus is counting on the products, which appear to be the first commercially available scented laptops, to build up its brand. Its Eee line of products, led by its best-selling Eee PC, has carved out a niche by offering portability and intuitive software at a low price. Other Asus laptops sport bright colors and unique materials like faux snakeskin."We want to create a more intimate feeling with our laptops - to influence people's moods, memories and emotions through the five senses," says Asus product manager, Jessie Ku.  It seems to be working. The company is currently the No. 6 vendor of branded laptops globally, according to market researcher IDC.  Why so many pinkgadgets? People have tried for years to link web sites, films and even music albums to customized scents. Most schemes require plug-in accessories that release different fragrances based on code messages, sound waves or other triggers. A German company called Cinescent offers scented ads by releasing aromas through cinema air conditioning vents.  Asus' plan for scented laptops was a carefully guarded secret project that researchers in the corporate design centre in Taipei toiled on for a year. The team's original task was to create a product for young people, says Carol Kuan, a researcher in Asus' design center. After observing a range of people in high school to their early 20s, the group decided their audience enjoyed surfing, skateboarding, going to the beach and hanging out.

Asus Laptop

Those activities suggested to Asus' designers a series of somewhat abstract designs that weave in flowers, tattoos, graffiti and bubbles. They chose high-gloss colours to play off the bright, shiny makeup that so many young women wear. The customers Asus had in mind are "people who like to attract attention and show off in their Facebook photos," says Kuan.  And why not tickle the consumer's nose, along with teasing the eye?  50 gadgets for under 50 quid Asus developed a heat-transfer printing technology in its lab that imbues a clear plastic film with a scent. The film is then secured onto the cover of every notebook. The trickiest part, says Kuan, was figuring out how much perfume to douse the film with. Asus says the scent will last for three to six months, depending on usage. Cold weather will extend the scent's life; sun and wind will shorten it. Users don't need to turn on their laptops to activate the perfume, but the heat will intensify the smell.  Once the perfume dissipates, it's gone; Asus has no plans to sell replacements or refreshers. The bonus: "You won't get bored of smelling it," says Asus spokeswoman Debby Lee.