FRAMINGHAM 8 FEBRUARY 2011 - Dell will launch a 10-in. Windows 7-based tablet for business users later this year, aimed primarily at "vertical" markets such as health care, education and the financial sector, the company said Tuesday.
Dell is hedging its bets, however. It will also offer 10-in. tablets based on Google's Android operating system, said Steve Lalla, head of Dell's business client division.
Lalla spoke at an event in San Francisco where Dell launched a major refresh of all its PC, laptop and workstation products. He called it "the largest commercial client refresh in the history of Dell."
The new products included the Latitude XT3, an update to Dell's existing XT2 convertible tablet. It's not a true tablet like the iPad, but rather a laptop with a touchscreen that swivels around and folds over the keyboard. The new model has a larger, 13-inch screen and a newer Intel processor.
The Windows 7 tablet coming later this year will be a true tablet, though Dell has some work to do before it's ready for market. The device Lalla held aloft on Tuesday was a mock-up with a fake screen.
"It's a preview, we don't have a working model to show," he said in an interview later. But he added that Dell may release the product "much sooner" than the end of the year.
Windows 7 has got off to a slow start in tablets and some are skeptical it can succeed in that type of device. Windows 7 wasn't designed primarily with tablets in mind, noted industry analyst Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies.
"I don't expect to see any serious Windows tablets until next year," when Windows 8 is expected, Bajarin said.
Still, he said some enterprise customers are interested. And a Windows tablet could be attractive because it will integrate more easily with existing management and security tools, he said.
Dell didn't give many details about the product. Lalla said in the interview that it will use the next version of Intel's Atom processor, known as Oak Trail, and that Dell will differentiate it from existing Windows 7 tablets by aiming it at specific vertical markets -- namely manufacturing, health care, finance and education.
It will also offer a "general purpose" model on Dell's Web site, he said.
Android-based tablets could also find a home in the enterprise, Lalla said. In fact, with the tablet and smartphone markets still evolving, Dell is betting on all the horses -- Android, Windows, x86 and Arm-based processors.
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