Dell announces Latitude ST tablet for businesses

Dell's Latitude ST is a PC in a tablet form factor

Dell will sell a new Latitude tablet for businesses with Microsoft's Windows 7 operating system, and it is also preparing to bring the OS' successor, Windows 8, to tablets.

The Latitude ST has a 10.1-inch screen and is designed for use in enterprises, said Kirk Schell, executive director and general manager for Dell's Business Product Group. The tablet has provisioning, security and management features aimed at businesses.

Dell has put its consumer tablet business on the backseat as it tries to focus on devices that straddle both work and play. Dell is trying to establish a larger presence in enterprises, and has said that its future tablets and smartphones will be aimed at audiences that want them for both business and personal use. Dell has already released Streak tablets with different screen sizes that run Google's Android OS, and Venue smartphones that use both Android and Microsoft's Windows Phone operating systems.

The ST tablet is an expansion to the Latitude line of laptops and desktops for businesses, Schell said. A separate keyboard can be attached to the tablet to turn it into a PC, but the tablet form factor is more advantageous as it is highly portable, Schell said. The tablet will offer seven hours of battery life, and weight starts at 1.8 pounds (816 grams).

The product will be available on Nov. 1 in 53 countries, according to the company's website. The tablet runs on Intel's Atom Z670 processor with a clock speed of 1.5GHz, and has up to 128GB of storage.

There are advantages to having a tablet with Windows 7, Schell said. Large companies especially want a Windows device, and the tablet will run legacy applications and fit easily into existing IT environments. By comparison, devices with Google's Android or Apple's iOS may need workarounds to fit into some IT installations. However, Schell said that the company would offer an OS like Android depending on customer need.

The Latitude ST can run virtualization technology from VMware and Citrix, and the tablet can be remotely configured and managed the same way as a PC, Schell said. The tablet can be remotely managed and updated through a Kace appliance, which can track software compliance and hardware configurations and changes.

Schell did not say if the ST tablet will be directly upgradable to Microsoft's Windows 8, but said the company would release a tablet in the future based on the upcoming OS. Microsoft has not yet provided a Windows 8 release date, but Intel executives have said Windows 8 would come out next year.

As an OS designed for tablets, Windows 8 will let legacy applications be controlled by touchscreens, Schell said. Dell is working with Microsoft on application development for the OS, Schell said.

Dell will compete in the enterprise tablet space with Hewlett-Packard, which offers the Windows 7-based Slate 500, and Cisco, which offers the Android-based Cius tablet. Apple's iPad is the top enterprise tablet, finding acceptance to access email, calendars, the Web and corporate documents.

The Latitude ST can also take the form of a consumer tablet and be used to surf the Web and check email, Schell said. The tablet has 2GB of DDR2 RAM, Wi-Fi, an SD card reader and an HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) port. Optional items include a 3G chip for mobile broadband connectivity.

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