Dell gives more hints about new form factors

As Dell re-asserts its relevance as a PC manufacturer, the company takes another gamble on completely new form factors, including a hybrid portable.

At Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco, CEO Michael Dell made a keynote speech showing off two forthcoming Dell products that shed the company's traditional desktop-or-notebook form factor: the XPS One (no relation to the similar Gateway model of the same name) and the multi-touch capable Latitude XP convertible tablet.

These two designs may be a departure from the company's usual approach, but they are by no means unique or particularly novel. Nevertheless, the XPS One's all-in-one design is definitely a sign of the times, and every company that releases one will face the inevitable comparison to the iMac.

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The tablet computer has absolutely failed to make the splash that Microsoft foresaw five or more years ago. But in a Direct 2 Dell video blog posted on May 18, Dell's Jeff Clarke said that technology, customer, and usage models have evolved to the point where it is now a good time for the company to put a new tablet PC on the market.

Perhaps the evolution he was referring to was the unveiling of Apple's tablet design at Macworld several months prior.

But neither of these new Dell designs have a release to market date yet, and the multi-touch demo of the Latitude tablet at OpenWorld has not provided us with any concrete specs.

Since Michael Dell reassumed his position as CEO, it seems that every development under the Dell brand is an attempt at striking out in new directions. This year alone, Dell has decreased its emphasis on the traditional direct sales model by expanding its retail presence into Wal-Mart and Staples in the USA, Bic Camera in Japan, Carphone Warehouse in the UK, and Gome in China.

This month, Dell began its biggest takeover yet - although the transaction will not be complete until 2008 - by acquiring iSCSI SAN and virtualization specialists EqualLogic for $1.4 billion. The acquisition was said to be a move toward building a storage channel. The company has also begun to offer open source operating systems as options, such as Ubuntu 7.04 in addition to its own non-GUI based FreeDOS.

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