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Dell launches 10 new laptop models

Brian Caulfield, Forbes | August 18, 2008

Dell introduced 10 new laptop models aimed at business users on Tuesday as it scrambles to get ahead of the shift from desktops to notebook computers.

At an event here, Jeff Clarke, senior vice president and general manager of the Dell business product group, said the new models represent a million man-hours of research, more than 3,200 prototype test units and feedback from more than 4,000 customers.

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The stakes are high: Stylish laptops have been at the heart of Dell's plan to claw back market share from Hewlett-Packard with eye-catching designs that will appeal to customers snapping up laptops from retailers, such as Best Buy, that Dell has been cultivating over the past year.

That's helped the Round Rock, Texas-based computer giant grow its share of the worldwide PC market to 15.6 per cent for the quarter ending June 30, from 14.8  during the year-ago period, according to tech market tracker Gartner.

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Now Dell is bringing some of the eye candy it's been cranking out for consumers to its business laptops. In addition to mica-brushed metal, four of the new models will be available in blue and red. Another, the thin E4200, will be available in "quartz pink."

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The new models include seven new Latitude models for mainstream business users and three new Precision-branded models for "power-users," such as engineers and graphic designers. The Dell Latitude E6400, with a 14.1 inch screen and a starting price of $1139, and Latitude E6500, with a 15.4 inch screen and a starting price of $1,169, are at the heart of Dell's new line of business laptops. Both machines are available immediately.

Dell also introduced a pair of budget laptops, the $839 Latitude E5400 and the $869 E5500, available immediately, and a rugged laptop, the Latitude E6400 ATG that Dell says meets military specifications for toughness. It will be available next week.

The flashiest new models, however, are a pair of thin, light models that will pit Dell against Apple's and Sony's efforts to couple style and portability into ever sleeker shapes. The lightest of the pair, the E4200, weighs just 2.2 pounds, compared to three pounds for Apple's MacBook Air. Dell said these models will be available in a few weeks.

Clarke also offered a sneak peak at a new technology dubbed "Dell Latitude ON," which promises the speed of a smart phone with a notebook's big screen and keyboard. Clarke offered few details, but he said the technology relies on a second processor and an embedded Linux system that allows users to bypass Windows to surf the Web, check e-mail and calendar, and view attachments the moment users flip up a laptop's lid.

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