Four questions on design using social networks

AsusTek and Intel share their experiences with

How will social networks impact product design? That's what we asked representatives from Intel Corp. and Taiwan computer maker AsusTek Computer Inc.
In October, Intel and Asus launched, a social network, aimed to generate insights that could be useful for designing next-generation systems. More than 6,000 users have registered for the site to date, generating 13,000 votes on favorite designs and 4,500 user comments on industry blogs at the site.

The network has generated several ideas for next-gen computers to date including an integrated artificial-intelligence assistant, a built-in projector and a removable touch screen that would communicate wirelessly with the keyboard. The community also weighed in on the concept of a dual-panel touch screen system Asus launched recently at the CeBit show.

In an email exchange Katie Wallace, a campaign manager in Intel's partner marketing group and Wan-Ting Yang, a project manager at Asus talked about their experiences so far. Their answers suggest social networks are both a marketing mechanism and a way to throw ideas over the transom for engineers to consider. We suspect it's still early days for social networks that make intimate and meaningful links between product managers, design engineers and end users.

Q: How are the exchanges on influencing your design decisions?
Intel: To date the ideas are mostly hardware configurations, and often recipes for ideas based on technical specs. The type of feedback that will help us in our design processes is more related to how [future] mobile technologies intersect with human behaviors and aspirations. This will help us drive designs that are better aligned with real user driven opportunities that potentially open new markets.

Asus: WePC is an excellent platform to communicate with end users during the product design process. Users are not only sitting there waiting for new products, but they are involved in the design process. This platform is also good for concept testing to evaluate which form factors are the best solutions to deliver the best end user experience.

Q: Can you give an example?

Intel: We do not have a current example yet. Our goal is to work with Asus on a future project based on feedback from

Asus: When Asus started to develop the dual panel concept it launched at CeBit, we combined the feedback from the site to develop the usage scenarios and functions. WePC gave us ideas that fit with different end users needs. For example, they helped us see how people could use the system as a conventional notebook with multi-touch screens, a virtual keyboard and touchpad. It could also be used as a multimedia hub, in which both dual panels could combine to form a larger display for widescreen entertainment; or it could be used in an E-book mode in which users can hold the two panels just like they would a conventional book, flipping pages through gestures or by touch.

Q: What other online forums are impacting your design decisions?
Intel: The Next Generation PC Competition is a great example of where people are challenged to come up with forward looking designs. Other tools that are helpful are editorials from Engadget and Gizmodo on new gadgets and product experiences from various technology showcases we're unable to reach from our Oregon offices.

Asus: Asus currently has dedicated user groups on Facebook and MySpace. For example, we recently launched our new Eee Top product in North America and gave our Facebook members an exclusive preview of the product. They received a special price for pre-order made through We also conduct user surveys regularly and collect user comments or suggestions for our notebook and Eee family products, then give feedback to our headquarters product managers and designers to make suggested improvements. Overall, we feel that the communication with our product users has been improved, and we want to make sure the products we design are what our customers want.

Q: What online forums would be most helpful in the future?

Asus: It depends. Our product design team will study the trend from the IT, and consumer electronic related forums to see if the end user feedback matches our concepts and if our products can fit with end user demand.

BY Rick Merritt
Source:EE Times

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