We all know that mobile phones have become a fashion item. Not only do people customize and accessorize them, we've even seen branded mobile phones.

Could the same thing happen with increasingly popular netbooks?

The announcement that Disney and Asus have teamed up to produce a Disney-branded netbook dubbed Netpal hints at the possibility.

The netbook, which is designed for kids between the ages of 6 and 12, will not only feature two Disney-themed cases but a Windows XP OS customized specifically for Disney-loving kids. Amongst the features: desktop themes built around popular Disney characters and movies, a Disney browser and a Radio Disney widget that streams Disney music. Parents are provided with a suite of parental controls to monitor and restrict usage.

The Netpal, which will apparently be sold through Toys R Us and Amazon.com, is expected to retail for $350.

This isn't the first computer with branding and there are laptops and PCs that are designed to provide their owners a sense of identity. Disney Dream Desk PC, released in 2004, was actually the iconic brand's first foray into this area. And there are customization options for adults too. Dell, for instance, has a Design Studio offering that enables customers to choose from over 200 case designs.

But when it comes to branding deals and customization offerings, netbooks have two distinct advantages:

  • They're cheap. That means netbooks have a larger consumer market than high-end laptops and PCs. Consider that it costs $85 to add a Design Studio case to a Dell Studio 15 laptop; that alone is almost a third of the cost of a low-end netbook. Lower costs make netbooks perfect for kids and younger cost-conscious consumers who are more likely to be interested in their personal identities and brand associations.
  • They're portable. I'd argue the fashionability of mobile phones is partly due to their portability. People carry them around a lot and they're highly-visible; they're almost a part of your wardrobe. Since netbooks are sort of like a middle ground between mobiles and laptops, they might be portable enough to be seen as a fashion accessory too.

Bottom line: Disney is smart to target the netbook market with a branded offering and don't be surprised if more brands follow suit.

Photo credit: Raymond Brown via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 17 June, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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