Dell Debuts New Line of Rugged Computers

By Valerie Insinna
Dell in April launched its fourth generation of ruggedized laptops aimed to satisfy the federal government’s demand for lighter, multifunctional devices.

The product line comprises a 12-inch laptop — which can be converted to a tablet by flipping its screen — and a 14-inch laptop with high-end graphics optimal for mapping applications.

“The core of these products is the ability to survive just awful environments, whether that’s heat, cold, dust, wet, salty wet — which is particularly nasty — grease, vibration,” said Drew Moore, executive director of Dell’s business client product group. “The second major core attribute … is daylight viewability, outdoor usability.”

The products can endure damage such as pouring a bottle of water across the keyboard and dropping the computer on its screen, executives demonstrated during a March briefing at Dell’s Washington, D.C., office.

When it comes to withstanding high drops, “our internal standard is well beyond the military standard,” Moore said. Dell mandates that its rugged laptops survive 26 drops on every corner and side at heights of up to six feet without any damage.

Dell is just one computer manufacturer vying for the attention of the federal government and military services. Others, such as Panasonic, have developed their own line of rugged computers.

The laptops have many features that were a direct result of the military’s feedback, said Patrick Seidensticker, director of rugged marketing solutions. For instance, users complained that it was difficult to operate the doors protecting USB and Ethernet ports when wearing gloves, so Dell redesigned them to more easily open and close.

The company also incorporated technologies from its commercial offerings, such as a backlit keyboard that can change colors. Alienware, a Dell brand that manufactures gaming computers, originally developed that feature.

Compared to Dell’s last iteration of rugged laptops, the new devices are lighter and have longer battery life. The company’s third-generation 14-inch computer weighed almost 9 pounds and had a battery life of 8 hours. The new 12- and 14-inch rugged laptops weigh in at about 8 pounds and 5 and a half pounds, respectively. Both systems will run for about 10 hours before needing to be charged, Moore said.

Pricing will start at about $2,400 per unit, Moore said.

Topics: Business Trends, Infotech, Infotech, Procurement, Defense Department, Science and Engineering Technology

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