Dell to offer embedded mobility in new notebooks

13 Apr 2006

New business laptops from Dell will come supplied with built-in 3G mobile technology as part of a new deal that the computer maker has signed with Vodafone.

Corporate customers will now be able to order the mobile phone technology that will be factory installed on Dell’s Latitude D620 and D820. Instead of having to buy an external connect card in order to access the internet over 3G, users will now simply be able to place their phone SIM cards into a slot behind the laptop battery. The access works exclusively over the Vodafone network.

Dell has also included a software application that automatically manages different wireless connections to make it easy for people to connect to different networks or devices as they wish, whether via Bluetooth for short-range access, Wi-Fi for a wireless local area network or 3G for when the user is logging on from a moving train or in the back of a taxi.

Greg Tierney, client systems marketing manager for Dell, said that embedding the technology gave customers more choice for how best to access the internet from their laptops. He added that Dell considers Wi-Fi and 3G as complementary rather than competing technologies. “It fits in with our philosophy that you connect to whatever the best connection is at the time.”

The Latitude systems are widescreen models and include several security features such as a biometric fingerprint reader and a slot for smart cards. The machines are powered by Intel’s latest Dual Core processors. A ‘sniffer’ located at the side of the computer tells the user when a wireless network is within range; this feature operates whether the laptop is switched on or not. The D620 and D820 cost €1,203.95 and €1,264.45 including Vat and excluding delivery charges.

Vodafone is in the process of building out its 3G network around the country and company officials said that most of the major urban centres in Ireland can now get 3G. Later this year it will upgrade this network to HSDPA (high speed download packet access) which is between three and four times faster than current 3G speeds — close to 1.2Mbps.

The mobile technology included in the Dell laptops will be compatible with this new technology when it is launched, company officials confirmed. Even faster versions of HSDPA will be available over the next 18 months, with claimed wireless access speeds of up to 12Mbps. “Within a year you’ll see a Wi-Fi-like experience,” said Chris Handley, head of business products at Vodafone Ireland.

Handley added that the technology showed how notebook computers had evolved from having modem and Wi-Fi access as external PC cards to having these capabilities built in to the machines. “We’re now at the point of embedding mobile radios in laptops in the same manner,” he said.

By Gordon Smith