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Lapstation Provides Work Space for People on the Move

VENTURA COUNTY BUSINESS

March 07, 2000|SCOTT STEEPLETON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

For many people, it's no longer a question of whether work will follow them home--it's how to adapt the home as a place to work.

Enter Lapstation, a portable work environment designed for the "nomadic computing lifestyle," according to its maker, Maxim Weitzman, chief executive and co-founder of Intrigo Inc. of Thousand Oaks.

The 29-year-old Weitzman developed the collapsible plastic work space while fulfilling an internship as a Larry Wolfen Entrepreneurial Fellow in the MBA program at UCLA.

"As I started to research where personal work space was going, I saw a big trend in mobile computing," said Weitzman, a native of Venezuela who was among five Wolfen fellows who started the program in 1996. "When I was in school, I was spending four hours [a day] on my laptop computer."

In the United States, there are an estimated 30 million laptop-computer users. What Lapstation does is give them an easy way to take their computers--many with long-lasting power packs-- anywhere, co-founder Ravi Sawhney said.

"There's something about the freedom of doing something intellectual and not being tied down to a single space," said Sawhney, whose company, RKS Design Inc. of Thousand Oaks, provided venture design as its part of the Intrigo partnership.

Sawhney, who has designed products for Apple, Siemens and Panavision, among others, is responsible for taking Weitzman's drawings and transforming them into a product that looks good and delivers on its promise to be functional.

The Lapstation resembles a tray used to serve breakfast in bed, but take a closer look: It has dual mesh pouches that hold everything from computer disks and pens to sticky notes and cell phone, ergonomically correct gel-filled wrist pads and shock-absorbing rubber feet show that Lapstation is years beyond a simple tray.

And its choice of finishes-- "titanium" and a blue-green reminiscent of an iMac--is proof that form and function can work in harmony.

And you wonder why it took so long for a product like this to come along.

"I've been doing this for quite a few years and have been involved in a lot of successful products," Sawhney said. "It's very rare that you find in a new product a new product category."

*

Working with anthropologists, Sawhney found that time and work do not always go together.

He wondered if it were possible to bring to market a product that helps the user make the most of time and make it something the user can identify with immediately.

"In this case I saw we could," he said.

The key is "psycho-aesthetics," the ability to communicate the benefits of the product to the consumer instantly, Sawhney said.

"If you look at the Lapstation, you see the legs get fatter at the bottom. That says stability," he said. "The ribs say rugged and durable. The wrist pads say this is where you put your wrists. It looks like the handle feels good, and when I touch it, it does feel good."

The Lapstation inventory consists of just six prototypes, all of which are on the road as part of the initial product roll-out. When widely available--about the second week in August--prices will range from $89 to $189 depending on finish and accessories. Lapstation is manufactured by Peerless Injection Molding of Torrance.

For the time being, about the only place to find them is through a couple of catalogs and at Intrigo's Web site, http://www.intrigo.com.

The company's two main target customers are college students and young professionals.

"It's a product as much as a lifestyle statement," Sawhney said.

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