Microsoft-running tablet PCs used to be solid enterprise territory, but the Apple iPad has changed all of that. Case in point, the newest Dell, the Inspiron Duo convertible tablet, was introduced Nov. 23 for students and families.
A "tri-mode" device, it can be used as a laptop, with a chiclet keyboard and 10.1-inch display; clicked into an optional dock for easy movie watching; or swiveled about and used as a touch-screen tablet.
Unlike tablet PCs of yore, however, in which the entire screen commonly swiveled on a single hinge and folded back, here just the literal display flips inside the frame of the device, somewhat like a window transom. (There's a quick video of it here.)
"Dell is changing the shape of computing, with products that usher in new experiences and allow people to stay connected to each other and the content they love from almost anywhere," Sam Burd, vice president of Dell's Consumer, Small and Medium Business Product Group, said in a statement. Far from a device for a sales force or hospital staff-it comes in turquoise-Dell is lumping it with the Streak, its 5-inch sorta-tablet-sorta-smartphone. Unlike the Android-running Streak, though, on the Inspiron Duo you'll find Windows.
"The work done to develop Dell's innovative new Inspiron Duo is evidence of our close partnership efforts, combining the versatility and adaptability of Windows 7 with the creativity of Dell's unique flip hinge design to create a distinct and exciting new form factor," Brad Brooks, corporate vice president of Windows consumer marketing at Microsoft, said in a statement. "Given that the Microsoft Store has been named the exclusive retail partner during the holiday season, we're excited to extend this collaboration to offer this one-of-a-kind design to holiday shoppers."
The Inspiron Duo pairs its 10.1-inch touch display (which has a resolution of 1,366 by 768 pixels) with Windows 7 Home Premium, a 1.5GHz Intel Atom processor, and a 1.3-megapixel Webcam and digital microphone. There are 2GB of DDR3 (double-data rate) RAM, and hard drive options include 250GB and 5,400 rpm or 320GB and 7,200 rpm. WiFi is integrated, and optional connectivity choices include Bluetooth and 4G mobile broadband.
The optional dock, called the Audio Station, adds to the experience a 7-in-1 card reader, JBL speakers, two USB 2.0 ports and an Ethernet adapter. The dock also charges the Inspiron Duo's battery, when it's clicked into place.
In addition, the device runs Duo Stage, a new Dell user interface that offers instant access to music, photos, videos, ebooks and other applications.
Dell recently rearranged some of its internal departments, folding its tablet and smartphone initiatives into various departments, which it said will help it to sell more products. The new configuration did away with Dell's consumer products group, and so led to the resignation of Ron Garriques, a former Motorola employee who came to Dell to help it grab more of the mobile consumer market. From the Adamo, a thin notebook that didn't sell terribly well, to the Streak, which has been criticized for its straddling-the-fence size (big for a smartphone, small for a tablet), Dell offerings in that space have been met with lukewarm receptions.
Dell has since launched a new campaign with the tag line "You Can Tell It's Dell," with which it hopes to highlight the "differentiated experiences and benefits of Dell's consumer products."
The Inspiron Duo is now available in the United States starting at $549 without the dock or $649 with it. On Dec. 2, it will be available in the United Kingdom as well.