The future is black

The supremacy of silver is no more. Gadget designers have returned to the dark side. Toni Court plugs herself in
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The Independent Online

Black is back. Once lost amid a sea of sparkling silver, items finished in black are returning to the technology shelves. Samsung recently introduced a black player to its DVD range for the first time. Style-setters Bang & Olufsen, worshippers at the altar of silver, now make a number of products in black, including the iconic BeoCom 2 telephone. Apple's new iPod Nano comes in black as well as the standard (now slightly boring) white. The IXUS i Zoom, a new digital camera from Canon, isn't available in silver. Even the latest washing machine from LG is proudly labelled "lacquered black".

The shift echoes the catwalks in London, New York and Milan at last month's fashion weeks, where the vibrant colours of boho were replaced by darker hues, spawning acres of "black is back" copy in the glossies. The move has been more subtle in technology, but there is no denying there's been a shift to the dark side.

But will black really catch on in technology? It's easy to see why we like wearing it; it's flattering, chic and goes with everything. But swapping the shiny silver DVD player for the new black model feels a bit like hauling out the old VCR. Isn't black a bit boring and dated?

Not at all, say the designers. They're confident that black is the new silver, and that soon we'll see all gadgets in black as, not boring, but sexy and striking. The little black dress worn by Diana, Princess of Wales on the night that Prince Charles admitted he had had an affair with Camilla in a television interview, made a far more powerful statement than pink or blue could ever have done.

Ignacio Germande, the design director for Motorola UK, believes that having a black phone, television and DVD player shows a sense of modernity and style that silver can't match. "I've been trying to get away from silver for a long, long time," he says. "Phones, televisions and laptops used to be seen as hi-tech specialist products, but now they are consumer products and fashion accessories.

"They're no longer just tools for communication, they are an extension of the user's own image. They should give the user what they need emotionally as well as practically. "We make judgements about people based on their accessories," Germande says. "It's very different having a black phone than, say, a pink one. Black resonates with people because it's elegant and aspirational."

Germande says that following catwalk trends is now part of his job. He admits to a penchant for high couture designs, adding that the "in this week" look in technology will soon change as swiftly as it does in fashion. "In the past, we were limited in what we could do with technology because we could only use certain materials and they were bulky," he says. "Now, we are not limited by such proportions or materials, and the horizons for design are limitless."

Rob Hall, the principal designer at the electronics company Saitek, decided against silver when designing its striking speaker-system. "The consensus is that everything is silver at the moment, and silver is easy," he says. "People are looking for the next thing, and black - timeless and classic, just like the little black dress - always works. It's the way forward."

So, just like the catwalk is bidding farewell to boho and colour, technology is waving goodbye to silver. And we, sitting in our now antiquated homes bursting with gadgets, all in silver, are a little forlorn about the prospect of starting all over again. Such is fashion.

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