Page last updated at 00:43 GMT, Wednesday, 13 August 2008 01:43 UK

Digital nomad drives laptop sales

By Maggie Shiels
Technology reporter, BBC News, San Francisco

Dell poster
One of the demands of the new digital nomad is constant connectivity

The demands of the digital nomad are expected to drive laptop sales to over one billion in the next five years.

The prediction by Dell came as it unveiled 10 new laptop models aimed at this emerging working class.

The new Latitude line boasts as much as 19 hours of battery life for the always connected 21st century worker.

"There is no business as usual in the connected era," said Andy Lark, Dell's vice president of global marketing.

"Boundaries for businesses are virtual. This is a new class of worker who maybe doesn't have an office and who maybe visits 10 offices in a day and visits several different customers."

Andy Lark of Dell
Andy Lark says Dell has shipped 53 million Latitude laptops since 1994

Mr Lark told BBC News that the ranks of the digital nomad were swelling as were expectations about the functions their laptops and notebooks could perform.

"The majority of people coming online and buying their first computer today are doing it in emerging countries like China, India and Brazil.

"If you look at India, about 67% or more of their workforce is going to be entirely mobile and that is driving the demand for new features in the laptop like all day connectivity, long battery life, high-level security and uncompromising design and durability."

'Performance leaders'

At a press launch in San Francisco, Jeff Clarke, senior vice president of Dell's business group, showed off the new line to reporters and analysts.

The laptops include seven Latitude business laptops and three Dell Precision workstation laptops which Mr Clarke described as "performance leaders and something the tech community will absolutely die for".

The computers have just under 10 hours of battery life which can be extended with a so called "battery slice" to total 19 hours.

Mr Clarke said the company spent more than one million man hours and two years designing the updated Latitude line which range in price from $800 (400) to around $1,400.

The company also consulted more than 4,000 customers to find out what they wanted in their laptop. As well as battery life being a priority, security was the other big concern.

Dell's Jeff Clarke
Dell's Jeff Clarke shows off some of the new ultra mobile laptop colours

Mr Clarke told reporters: "With 17,000 notebooks being lost, left unattended or reported missing at airports around the world, many with important information on them, our customers asked for the notion of a vault to secure their information."

Dell said it had done that by including the ability to track down or disable the device if it was stolen.

The machines also have a fingerprint reader and a "control vault" processor that stores an owner's identity and credentials on protected hardware.

'Tiniest of differences'

Dell may have declared "freedom from business as usual", but is it enough to regain market share and compete with devices made by rivals such as Apple and HP?

Mr Clarke certainly seemed to think so.

"We have defined mobility for the business computer. We are at that forefront of being different."

Dell launch
In discussions with customers, security emerged as a major issue

Charles King of technology industry analysis firm Pund-IT told the BBC Dell had produced a product for today's workforce.

"I think what it comes down to is that for most of those customers, highly mobile, highly robust and highly secure systems are critical for large organisations' ease of management and administration.

"I think what Dell has done here is really very much focused on meeting the needs and wishes of this different class."

Dean Takahashi of VentureBeat.com said he wasn't totally convinced.

"I am not sure this is going to do it for Dell. The differentiation in this space is based on the tiniest of differences. Still it gives Apple, HP, Toshiba and Lenovo a target to strike at."


SEE ALSO
Dell signals 4% growth in profits
29 May 08 |  Business
Dell joins cut-down laptop market
29 May 08 |  Technology
European demand supports Lenovo
07 Aug 08 |  Business
Nvidia debuts chips for tiny PCs
02 Jun 08 |  Technology

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