Why car firms shouldn't design computers

BMW Mesh gaming PC
How to beat Apple: ADD MORE STUFF

Have you seen the BMW-designed Mesh PC?

If Mesh hadn't told us that BMW was involved, we'd never have known. The computer doesn't have kidney-shaped grilles, a Hofmeister kink or any other bits of BMW design DNA.

It's just a weirdly shaped PC case with a few glowing bits on it. BMW may have made some seriously stupid-looking cars in recent years, but compared to the Mesh they're masterpieces of restraint.

BMW isn't the only offender, either. Asus claims its Lamborghini VX5 laptop is based on the Reventon sports car, but you really need to squint to see any resemblance.

And then there are the Ferraris - the Acer Ferraris, that is. "Technology and innovation are driving forces behind man's greatest achievements," the blurb says.

"They are the foundations of past victories and the essences of future successes," it continues. "Look, we've made a red laptop with a picture of a horse on it!" it really ought to add.

There's nothing wrong with any of these computers as computers; the problem is the branding. Acer's laptops suffer from the same problem as the rest of Ferrari's licensed merchandise: the car firm doesn't give a monkey's what its logo ends up on.

Ferrari cars are the pinnacle of automotive engineering. No offence to Acer, but a £393 laptop isn't the pinnacle of personal computing.

The BMW doesn't really have much to do with cars, either. It's the work of BMW DesignWorksUSA, a studio that will design anything from chairs to bath taps, and this particular case was inspired by "the computer worlds themselves - expressiveness, virtual townscapes and futuristic game components served as orientation for the arrangement and the look of individual components."

We have absolutely no idea what that means.

Even the Lamborghini gets it wrong. While at least Asus has got the spec side of things right - the Lambo laptops feature cutting-edge kit and go like lightning - it hasn't got the Lamborghini spirit.

The Reventon, on which the VX5 is based, was designed to look like a stealth fighter; the VX5 couldn't be any less stealthy if it were covered in pink feather boas and screamed "Look at me! I'm FABULOUS!" on startup.

The problem is that cars and computers have nothing in common. The better the computer the less you notice it: its job is to get out of the way and let you get on with whatever you want to do.

With supercars and sports cars, it's the opposite: the point isn't the destination, but the driving.

When all cars are electric then perhaps the boundaries will blur, but right now they're different beasts from completely different worlds.

Right now, computers that look like cars make as much sense as horses painted to look like helicopters.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now and her next book, about pop music, is out in 2025. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band Unquiet Mind.