Dell Updates Business Laptops For 'Digital Nomads' - InformationWeek

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Infrastructure // PC & Servers

Dell Updates Business Laptops For 'Digital Nomads'

The PCs include a security subsystem to protect data and prevent unauthorized network access, and technology to extend battery life to as much as 19 hours.

Dell's Latitude E-Family

Dell's Latitude E-Family
(click for larger image)

Dell on Tuesday introduced a new line of business notebooks that reflect the computer maker's shift from building systems that only meet the requirements of IT managers to products that also incorporate nonbusiness features requested by end users.

Under development for the last two years, the seven new Latitude notebooks include a security subsystem to protect data and prevent unauthorized network access. Other new proprietary technology extends battery life to as much as 19 hours, according to Dell, and provides immediate access to e-mail and attachments, calendar information, and the Web without having to boot up the whole system.

Dell executives introduced the new line, along with three Precision mobile workstations, during a San Francisco news conference. In developing the new products, Dell focused on what it called "digital nomads," businesspeople who prefer to take their laptops with them wherever they go.

What Dell hopes will be particularly appealing to travelers is the 12.1-inch Latitude E4200, which starts at 2.2 pounds; and the 13.3-inch E4300, which starts at 3.3 pounds. The ultraportable systems will be available in the "coming weeks." Pricing was not disclosed, but small, full-featured systems in general tend to sell at a premium.

For companies looking for a basic business notebook to reduce costs, Dell unveiled the 14.1-inch E5400, which starts at $839, and the 15.4-inch E5500, which starts at $869. The systems were available Tuesday.

For mainstream desktop replacements, often found in docking stations in corporate cubicles, Dell introduced the 14.1-inch E6400 and the 15.4-inch E6500, which start at $1,139 and $1,169, respectively. Both were also available as of Tuesday.

For fieldworkers in more rugged environments, such as construction sites or military operations, Dell unveiled the 14.l-inch semirugged E6400 ATG, which starts at $2,399. The system is expected to be available next week.

While the new systems introduce some attractive proprietary technology, the bigger innovation is the change in how Dell decides what goes in its new products. Dell is listening as much to the requests of people who use its customer-feedback site IdeaStorm as to corporate IT managers.

"That's one of the key differences of these new commercial notebooks," Richard Shim, analyst for IDC, told InformationWeek. "This is dramatically different for Dell. They're responding more to what the end user is saying, in addition to what the IT manager wants."

As a result, Dell is making the notebooks available in colors other than corporate black, such as "regatta blue," "regal red," and "quartz pink." In addition, the systems are available with embedded Webcams and microphones. "People are traveling more and want Webcams to video chat with families at night," Shim said.

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