Dell is looking to broaden the reach of its enterprise notebook portfolio with the launch of seven new Latitude "E" notebooks for business users and three Precision mobile workstations.
During several Aug. 12 events, Dell unveiled some its most ambitious notebook designs to date for the enterprise market, including a 2.2-pound ultraportable Latitude notebook with a 12.1-inch display and a mainstream business laptop with up to 19 hours of battery life.
What was notable about this particular notebook launch was how Dell incorporated a number of consumer features, from Web cameras to an array of color choices, into an enterprise market that has grown used to laptops with stripped-down features.
"It's obviously a broad announcement with lots of notebooks with lots of new features, but the real story is the consumer influence on the enterprise product line," said Richard Shim, an analyst with IDC. "Dell has made improvements with the battery life, and they talked about security and manageability, but what I thought was interesting was the fact that they were using Webcams, different colors and just from a segmentation standpoint they had 10 new products there, and that's really broad for a commercial lineup."
Besides colors and cameras, Dell is including a number of IT-specific features, including a suite of security and management features that it introduced earlier this year called Dell ProSupport Mobility Services. Dell also incorporated a number of other security features, such as smart card readers.
The Dell launch also updates the PC vendor's lineup with Intel's Centrino 2 mobile platform, which debuted in July. While nearly every other major OEM-from Hewlett-Packard to Lenovo to Toshiba-rushed notebooks into the market to coincide with Intel's announcement, Dell held back until this week.
One reason for the delay could be that Dell wanted its own moment in the spotlight. HP launched its Centrino-based notebooks in June, which was a full month before the official announcement. Shim believes that Dell is looking to compete with HP in the enterprise space, since HP has also emphasized the consumer aspects of its business notebooks. Lenovo, the other large enterprise notebook player, has remained more traditional with its laptop designs.
"Every commercial user is also a consumer," said Steve Phelps, vice president of engineering for Dell. "Delivering silver or black boxes is just not the right answer today, so we're trying to figure out how commercial customers use their machines not only from a business perspective but from a personal perspective."
While all the major OEMs have been emphasizing notebooks over desktops in the last few years, Dell has made a concerted effort to raise its profile when it comes to notebooks. CEO Michael Dell told analysts earlier this year that notebooks would be one of five key areas that the company would improve during the next year.