Dells Latest Latitudes Use Wireless to Get Ahead

The PC maker has unveiled a new line of Latitude notebooks it says businesses can use to wield wireless as an advantage.

NEW YORK—Dell is setting out to prove that wider is better when it comes to wireless notebooks.

The company on March 28 previewed here two members of a new family of Latitude D series portables. As expected, the machines come equipped with wide-screen displays and offer broader networking capabilities, allowing them to stay continuously connected via Wi-Fi or cellular data networks, otherwise known as WWANs (wireless WAN), or wireless broadband.

Dell set out to produce better all-around notebooks in designing the new machines, which include its Latitude D620, D820 and Precision mobile workstation models M65 and M90, which offer 15.4-inch and 17-inch wide-screens and heavy-duty graphics. The machines incorporate Intels latest dual-core mobile processor, the Core Duo, as well as a reinforced magnesium chassis—Alex Gruzen, senior vice president of Dells product group and its notebook chief, demonstrated the increase in strength by standing on one end of a D820—as well as more comfortable keyboards and tighter hinges that reduce screen movement in bumpy setting such as trains.


But the availability of built-in WWAN hardware for accessing Cingulars BroadbandConnect service and Verizon Wireless EvDO (Evolution Data Optimized) network stole the show.

"The sense were getting is that there are quite a few customers that are interested in mobile broadband" or WWAN, Gruzen said, speaking to a small group of reporters and analysts.

Companies can take advantage of the technology to keep employees, such as salespeople or workers in other critical roles, connected constantly, which means they can get more work done, he said. Thus, the capabilities provided by the services "could lead to an explosion of adoption in coming years."

/zimages/1/28571.gifRead more here about notebook makers wide-area wireless plans.

By delivering the new machines, which went on sale March 29, Dell is making good on a promise it made last summer to begin building WWAN hardware directly into its business laptops. Doing so improves the ways in which business customers can stay connected, Gruzen said, eliminating the need for an external PC Card module for accessing high-speed data networks such as Cingulars BroadbandConnect or Verizon Wireless EvDO. The add-in cards, which come with their own separate antennas, can be inconvenient to operate, dont perform as well as integrated hardware and are easier to break, Dell executives said.

"Frankly, the performance [of built-in hardware] blows away any PC card you could buy and stick in a notebook, either from us or our competitors," Gruzen said.

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Dell will offer the 4.4-pound Latitude D620 for a starting price of $1,149, which includes a 1.66GHz Intel Core Duo T2300 processor, a 14.1-inch wide-screen, 512MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive and a Wi-Fi module capable of accessing 802.11b and 802.11g networks, company officials said.

The 5.6-pound Latitude D820 starts at $1,289 and offers a 15.4-inch wide-screen, in addition to the Core Duo T2300, 512MB of RAM, 40GB hard drive and the dual-band Wi-Fi module. Businesses can add faster processors, more memory, larger hard drives and, in the case of the D820, Nvidia graphics processors.

Given that the move to wide-screens is fairly aggressive, Dell will keep its existing 610 model around for extra time—roughly five more months—one company executive said.

Next Page: Wide-area wireless challenges.