"Men are less patient than women: they haven't got the time or the inclination to read a 90-page manual and work out how to operate a camera or DVD player. They want instant gratification - simple, user-friendly, intuitive technology that they can take out of the box and use immediately. They lose interest if it doesn't work immediately, whereas women view sussing out a new gadget as a challenge. It's that whole toolshed tradition of taking something apart to see how it works."
Manufacturers will have to take a more girlie approach if they want to get men turned on to the latest gadgets, says Raymond Forder
Would you rip files at a high or low bit-rate? Do you prefer AAC, WMA or MP3? If you are completely baffled by these questions, you are probably a man. The terminology relates to downloading music, and a recent study by the British Phonographic Industry found that 96 per cent of tracks are downloaded by women.
Which is why, in a savvy marketing move, HMV announced last week that it hopes to encourage men to enrol for tuition when the record store launches its online download facility in September.
So why are men less interested in podcasts and playlists than women? In fact, why are they unimpressed with the idea of tinkering with any type of technology?
"I've just started borrowing my wife's iPod, but she had to give me a lesson in how to switch it on and find a track, and I've got two pages of instructions that I take with me whenever I use it," says Lucas Dobbs, editorial director of a publishing company. "I would never attempt to download a song, because I know I'd make a mess of it - I'd probably end up closing down the National Grid."
Mary Bjornsgaard, co-founder of download facility Artists First, says that men are reserving judgment on iTunes.
"Downloading is a relatively new development, and traditionally, the early adopters of new technology are women," she explains. "In five years' time, they will engage in it much more."
Earlier this month, a study by the University of Glamorgan Business School found that men and women have very different tastes in website aesthetics. Men prefer rounded shapes, plenty of colour and informal language. According to Karl Lee, editor of shinyshiny.tv, an online gadget guide for boys, this could be part of the problem. "Designed by women, some download websites are too clinical and uninspiring," he says.
Xfm DJ Laurence Lavern thinks it's a shame that men aren't getting stuck in. "I think a lot of boys are nervous that downloading will be too complicated for them," he says. "But it's actually very straightforward and iPods are so chic and versatile - they are the little black dresses of gadgets. If I go for a run, the music spurs me on, and when I walk down Oxford Street, it saves me from being accosted by people who want to persuade me to go paintballing or have my hair cut."
However, the fact is that most men prefer to spend their lunchhour browsing in Chloé - not Comet. They refuse their girlfriend's offer of a two-player PlayStation bout of Mortal Kombat, even if it's the only way to get some quality time with her. And, although three-quarters carry a mobile phone and 10 per cent of men surveyed recently admitted using their phone to send sexy pictures to their partners, there is little male interest in the new, all-emailing, all-videoing mobiles.
"My mobile phone is a bone of contention between me and my wife," says Samuel Mary, a marketing manager. "Until recently, I had the same phone that I have had since I first got one in 1997. Although it weighed half a stone, it was easy to use and it made calls, and that's all I'm interested in.
"I didn't want to have to learn how to use a new model, so I never upgraded. Since my wife put my sim card in one of her old phones, she has given me three or four lessons in how to send text messages, but I still haven't got the hang of it. I think the reason I can't work it out is that I think it's pointless. If I want to tell someone something, I just call them."
Michelle Brian, acting editor of Stuff, a gadget magazine that has a 95 per cent female readership, says that, like Mary, most men are attracted only to new bits of kit that look nice and serve a purpose.
"Traditionally, technology is a female environment," she says. "Men are less patient than women: they haven't got the time or the inclination to read a 90-page manual and work out how to operate a camera or DVD player. They want instant gratification - simple, user-friendly, intuitive technology that they can take out of the box and use immediately. They lose interest if it doesn't work immediately, whereas women view sussing out a new gadget as a challenge. It's that whole toolshed tradition of taking something apart to see how it works."
Tonya Stephanie, a psychologist and usability expert, agrees. "Men are often discouraged by other men from learning about technology," she says. "They are conditioned by society to want to be seen as different to women. Building Meccano bridges and piecing together model aeroplanes teach girls to enjoy tinkering with things, but boys are encouraged to play with dolls instead.
"This makes them more interested in relationships and how people behave, so they focus on the usefulness of a gadget, not on how it works. For example, they like using mobile phones because they are big talkers, so they see it as helpful to be able to make calls all the time."
Thomas Jourdan, a writer in his mid-thirties, says that his issues with technology are two-fold.
"I bought an iriver [an MP3 player with lots of additional features] in January, and I have spent the last seven months trying to make it work," he explains. "The instruction book was an inch thick and really hard to follow. So I gave up. Even a group effort with all my boyfriends failed. My brain just isn't wired up to deal with the annoying, irritating, sequential precision of technology. Plus, I only came to computers in my twenties and technology moves so fast that I have been playing 'catch up' ever since."
However, like HMV, electrical goods manufacturers seem determined to turn men on to cameras and computers. Apple launched a mini version of the iPod in pastel pink last summer, and this season's desktop must-have is a Hello Kitty mouse. Next month, Dixons is holding men-only shopping nights across the UK.
"Men are more likely to buy digital cameras and mobile phones because of the social element, whereas women buy hardware that is more solitary, such as laptops and gaming devices," says John Illingworth, brand marketing manager of Dixons. "However, manufacturers are working harder at appealing to the men's market by combining style with function and making their technology more gender-neutral. And it works both ways: an advert for a new iron promises that it 'kills creases'."
Lucas Dobbs thinks that no matter how user-friendly technology becomes, he won't be able to shake off his laziness.
"If I'm honest, most of the time I deliberately act helpless, because I know there will always be someone who can help me, whether it's my wife or a female colleague at work," he says. "If I take on board a little of what I am taught about a computer or an iPod, I will have to learn the rest myself. Whenever I hear some new music that I like, I'll just make a list of songs for my wife to download for me."
"It's easy for men to say they don't understand and ask a woman for help," says Tonya Stephanie. "As the saying goes, girls play with toys, and boys play with girls."