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.
Battery Life Improvement
One of the other significant improvements Dell worked on was battery life. With the Latitude E6400 notebooks, Dell is including a 9-cell extended battery that offers up to 10 hours of battery life and a new piece of technology called a “slice,” which weighs about 1.8 pound and uses lithium-ion prismatic cell technology that boosts the battery life up to 19 hours.
While this long-lasting battery life does require some optimal conditions, Phelps said Dell is confident that it can deliver longer battery life than any laptop from the competition.
The new Dell Latitude “E” lineup includes:
“??Ç The ultraportable Dell Latitude E4200, which weighs 2.2 pounds and has a 12.1-inch display, and the Latitude E4300, which has a slightly larger 13.3-inch screen and weighs 3.3 pounds. These two laptops will also use SSDs (solid state drives).??Ç Two mainstream notebooks, the Dell Latitude E6400 with a 14.1-inch display and the Latitude E6500 with a 15.4-inch screen. There are also two “essential” notebooks in the lineup, which include the Latitude E5400 with a 14.1-inch display and the E500 with a 15.4-inch display.??Ç The Dell Latitude E6400 ATG, which is a semi-rugged laptop that offers a 14.1-inch display and meets military standards for absorbing shock and repelling dust and humidity.“
Dell also rolled out three new mobile workstations, including the Dell Precision M4400, which has a 15.4-inch display, and the M2400 with a slightly smaller 14.1-inch screen. Dell also rolled out a high-end workstation-the Precision M6400-with a 17-inch display and 16GB of RAM, which will compete against the recently released Lenovo W700 mobile workstation.
Finally, Dell, previewed an upcoming combination of hardware and software technologies called Dell Latitude On, which will give a user access to e-mail, calendars and other personal materials without booting from the notebook’s main operating system. Dell executives did not give details about the new product, but it will be available later in 2008.