Tech Goodies on Tap From Dell

SAN FRANCISCO — Looking to shake its image as “just” a major distributor of competitively priced technology, Dell yesterday talked up a number of tech innovations it has in mind for the holiday season and beyond.

During their presentation here at Oracle OpenWorld about Dell’s campaign to simplify IT, company executives previewed several client devices a blade system planned for coming months.

There are “some pretty incredible things happening on the client side,” said the company’s chief technology officer, Kevin Kettler, who joined CEO Michael Dell on stage.

Kettler showed off Dell’s first tablet PC, the Latitude XT convertible notebook, which boasts a 12.1-inch screen. Kettler said it will be the thinnest PC convertible on the market and should be available “in the next couple of months.” He also said the Latitude XT’s screen is 25 percent brighter than competitive models now available.

That could appeal to buyers who have been holding off on convertible notebooks. Tech analyst Nathan Brookwood, for instance, said he avoids convertibles because they are bulkier. Instead, he’s generally preferred to use a non-convertible Fujitsu tablet.

“Dell doesn’t go after a market until it’s pretty convinced there is one,” Brookwood, a Fellow with Insight64, told “Size and weight are very important. If Dell can get theirs down closer to the dimensions of a slate tablet, that’ll be very impressive.”

Taking a page from Apple’s iPhone, the Latitude XT also includes multi-touch sensing technology using either fingers or a stylus. On stage, Kettler showed how in a photo application you could quickly move photos around the screen using multiple fingers, or resize and rotate them. The presentation also included a drawing program using the multi-touch.

While Dell said he thinks “developers are going to wild” creating new multi-touch applications, it’s not immediately clear how developers would extend the system’s built-in touch capabilities. A Dell spokesman said a software development kit is a possibility, but had no further details.

Another product on display looked like a widescreen TV but was actually a sleek, all-in-one Dell PC. The unit appeared similar to a unit Gateway introduced in late September.

Dell executives showed the product only briefly during the presentation, but the company plans to formally unveil it with more details next week.

On the enterprise side, Dell said it’s ready to compete with market leaders HP and IBM on blade servers with a 10U quad-core AMD or Intel system. Company executives predicted Dell’s offering would be the industry’s most power-efficient when it ships by early spring.

Michael Dell said his company is also focused on being the leading “green” IT provider. He drew applause for his announcement that Dell plans to be a carbon-neutral company by the end of 2008 and has made greener systems a company-wide priority.

He also said Dell is looking at ways to create lead-free systems starting with its upcoming blade server.

Tweaking rival HP, he also said Dell ordered an HP blade system for competitive analysis and noted it came in 78 boxes.

“We’ll ship ours in only two,” he said.

HP was quick to dispute the claims. An HP spokesman said HP’s Factory Express option, from HP and its channel partners, ships HP blade systems to customers in a single cardboard box. He said the “vast majority” of HP blade system customers use Factory Express, but some choose HP Onsite Integration Services, which deliver the blade solution in a number of smaller boxes so a reseller or someone else can customize the configuration.

As for power efficiency, the spokesman added that HP’s ProLiant BL460c blade system, announced last week, uses up to 47 percent less power than traditional 1U servers and “would be hard to beat.”

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