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Dell Goes for Power, Style With New PCs

Dell Latitude Z
Dell Latitude Z Click to enlarge.
Source: Dell
Dell is hoping it has read the tea leaves right and that many of you are ready to upgrade clunky old computers. It has some new desktops in the pipeline and a laptop that looks like it might have come from the labs of Apple's design wizard Jonathan Ive.

Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) sees three events coming up: aging computer systems in need of replacement; the positive vibes surrounding Windows 7, and a desire on the part of some to be more "image-conscious," to project a certain flair. Certainly, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) has capitalized on this better than most.

Now Dell wants a crack at it. "We intended to build a box that executives and talent agents and people who are image conscious would want to carry. Something that looks really great in the era of high tech," Steve Belt, vice president of engineering in the Business Client group told InternetNews.com.

The Dell Latitude Z has all the usual specs – 16-inch screen, Intel Core 2 Duo SU9400 or SU9600 ultra low voltage processors, integrated graphics, up to 4GB of memory – and a very sleek design. It's only 14mm thick, less than a half-inch, and weighs 4.5 pounds, but it's the non-standard features that make it stand out and earn its $1,999 price tag.

For starters, it's completely wireless. Not just for networking, but for power. You don't plug it into a wall, you seat it on top of a charge stand that uses inductive coupling to power the unit. This technology has previously been used in electric tooth brushes but never a PC, Belt notes.

With a single battery, it has about four hours of usage, or eight hours with two batteries. But to really stretch out battery life, Dell added something called Latitude ON that is essentially a PC-within-a-PC. It will allow for rapid checking of e-mail, calendars and the Web without having to fire up the whole system.

Inside the laptop is a one-inch square secondary system using an ARM processor, some memory and embedded Linux, along with four mobile apps. This will allow users to quickly fire up their laptop, usually as fast as it takes to open the lid, check e-mail, their calendar and the Web, all without having to boot into the power-consuming Windows/Intel system.

"This is a whole new concept for using a machine. It's for people who are moving around a lot and consume data on the fly," said Belt. The secondary system uses a VPN or XenApp Receiver to access a back-end Exchange system securely.

Also impressive is its camera. Dell FaceAware Lock‐Out recognizes the computer's owner, and when the owner steps away from the laptop, automatically locks the computer out. The camera is also a scanner. Hold a business card up to it and it reads the card's contents into the user's contact database. Hold an 8.5x11 sheet of paper up, and it scans the page into a PDF file.

The Latitude Z is available immediately with Vista, and will be updated with Windows 7 when it becomes available next month.

New desktops

In less sexy but still useful news, Dell also introduced two new desktops. The Precision T1500 is a single-socket workstation aimed at power users doing tasks like 2D or basic 3D graphics. The tower uses a Core i7 processor with up to 16GB of memory and an nVidia Quadro graphics card, and starts at under $1,000. It has been certified by AutoDesk as AutoCAD-compliant, meaning it's deal for using the popular CAD/CAM package.

The OptiPlex 780 is built to bring the bringing manageability of the 960 line of OptiPlex down to the mainstream space. It runs either Intel Core 2 Duo or Core 2 Quad processors, up to 8GB of memory, can run Windows XP, Vista or 7, and has a full suite of management and security options.

These include Dell Client Manager, Dell Distributed Device Management Services, full Intel vPro support, a chassis intrusion detection switch and smart card keyboard.

Both computers are available immediately from Dell.