Best Buy launches collectively customized 'Blue Label' laptops

How would you describe your 'ideal laptop'? Starting with new Toshiba and HP models, Best Buy is now offering an exclusive line of CE products -- based on people's answers to questions like these -- under its new 'Blue Label" program.

Retail giant Best Buy has rolled out new Toshiba and HP laptops as the first results of Blue Label, a new effort to work with computer vendors on building products that directly reflect consumers' wishes.

Geared to second- and third-time laptop buyers, the two new notebooks were created in response to the answers people gave when asked to describe their "ideal laptop."

Under questioning by Best Buy, consumers said they wanted a machine with longer battery life, a thin and lightweight design, a better screen size, an illuminated keyboard, and improved warranty support.

The first two notebooks in Best Buy's Blue Label series -- the HP Pavilion dv3510nr and Toshiba Satellite E-105-S1402 -- are each outfitted with backlit keypads and exterior designs. Each is less than 1.5 inches thick, weighing in at under five pounds.

More precisely, at 4.6 pounds, the Pavilion is less than 1.4-inches thick. Equipped with a 13.3-inch LED screen, it provides up to four hours of battery life from a single charge.

The Satellite is a little heavier, at 4.9 pounds. But the Satellite has a longer battery life of 5.5 hours, and a bigger screen size of 14.1-inches. The Satellite is thinner, too, at 1.2-inches.

Each laptop is priced at $1,199. By purchasing either one, you get a two-year warranty at no additional charge, along with 30 days of free support from Best Buy's Geek Squad. The laptops were expected in be available in Best Buy stores this week.

As a retailer, Best Buy's program can't be directly equated with the old individual build-to-order model pioneered by Dell and Gateway for desktop PCs. In a more collective sense, though, Best Buy's customers have helped the retailer and the two computer makers create a specification for the production of custom laptops. This level of customer focus is something which Circuit City -- the closest rival in an increasingly Best Buy-dominated field -- is still struggling hard to reach.

During a conference call with financial analysts last month, Circuit City Executive VP and CFO Bruce H. Besanko said that his company will now put more emphasis on "improving the customer experience," in the wake of a $162.7 million loss for the second fiscal quarter (according to a transcript from Seeking Alpha).

Furthermore, the fact that the Blue Label products will be sold exclusively by Best Buy should give the giant yet another competitive advantage in fending off Circuit City and other smaller retailers. In a statement, Best Buy said it will expand Blue Label beyond laptops to other product categories in the future, while continuing to "incorporate customer feedback into the design process."

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