Details emerge about Dell’s Latitude Instant On feature


Dell made a big splash this week with their notebook line announcement and a big part of that was touting their new instant on feature.  According to Dell this is a hardware based system subset that lets you bypass Windows and turn your notebook on to do common tasks.  Dell has intimated these tasks to include check your PIM data, schedule, contacts, email, so that you can quickly check information without having to fire up the entire Windows system.  Details are now emerging that lends some additional information to this process.  Dell is telling us that this instant on subsystem will be polling for email and server syncing while the notebook is not running so that when you pop it on your information is fresh.  This has some ramifications that Dell is not delving into yet but I’m sure they will start divulging more details soon.

It has been stated that the hardware subsystem Dell is using is ARM-based, a processor commonly used in Windows Mobile PDAs.  This is the same approach taken by HTC with their maligned Shift UMPC that also used a PDA system to do many of the tasks that Dell is mentioning.  The HTC implementation was based on Windows CE which was fairly crippled so all you could do was check information, not create content.  Dell is stating emphatically that you will be able to create content which implies you can create and reply to email, add contacts and schedule items, etc.  The HTC implementation also polled for email at user defined intervals regardless of the on state of the notebook so we can infer that you will need integrated WWAN, or 3G, like the Shift includes.  That’s about the only way a notebook can poll servers for information even if the system is not running.

The Dell system is said to be LInux-based although they are not providing any details.  They have indicated that in addition to working with your PIM data you will also be able to surf the web.  This sounds very much like the SplashTop system from DeviceVM that we saw early this year at the CES.  That is a Linux-based hardware solution that is embedded on many notebook boards by Asus.  Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  It is interesting that there seems to be a rush to provide these types of subsystems on notebooks, kind of a netbook on a chip system.  It appears that HTC was ahead of the curve with the Shift after all.

Here’s a discussion Dell had about the new system:

(via engadget)



the benefit isn’t the instant-on aspect of the system…as vincent mentioned above, putting your system in hibernate lets you approximate instant-on today. however, the fact that you can USE this subsystem for DAYS on a single charge is the big win (for the digital nomad searching for a power point in o’hare, for the environment, for the cost conscious, etc.)

the blackberry analogy the guy used is spot on. why power up a core 2 duo for checking email?

this system is like wrapping the (unfairly maligned) palm foleo inside of a normal laptop.

lattitudes are not only sold to corps large enough to warrant a active directory setup or similar.

and i can see this as useful for diagnostics and repair anyways, if one do not have a second computer available.

Vincent Oberle

I don’t get all these efforts put into all this instant on stuff.. just get sleep/hibernation correctly working instead, that would be a much better use of all these efforts. These days it’s just silly to ever have to shutdown a machine. Mac a pretty good at sleep, why couldn’t Windows machines be too?

Ricky B. Browse while booting? Wow. That’s an awesome idea. Seriously, that would be a killer feature to me, even as little time as I spend booting up… it just appeals strongly to the geek in me, I guess. :)


Going Linux-based is an interesting move for Dell. I expected it would have been Windows Mobile to appease those users with Exchange Servers for email.

So that said– in my opinion, the success of this feature for most business users (which the Latitude series is clearly geared to satisfy) is going to depend on how well this feature supports native Exchange Server usage.

Cody B

It will be interesting to see how this will work in a corporate environment. In most corporate environments their exchange servers are not hanging out in a DMZ like the solution James is using, for example. Most are only accessible from the corporate network and only available to a machine that is part of the company domain. If this is a separate OS, it will be interesting to see how they address this. Latitudes are designed for big companies right?


Ok who’s the good with the red shirt underneath his suit.
This guy seems like such a schmooz. If this is what most releases are like for computer manufacturers, I completely understand why the industry goes goo goo over Apple’s media events.
I’d rather shoot myself than sit there listening to that guy.

Kevin White

My parents have a Dell laptop that has the predecessor to this purported instant-on system. It’s actually a Windows PE environment and is completely pointless. It takes as long to start up to view media or a DVD as it would to start Windows XP and then Media Player!

Hopefully instant-on is going to be instant-on the way most PDAs wake up from sleep mode.

this will be a very interesting development.

if one can jump between them while windows is running, or browse while windows is booting, then it can in theory even be used as a more secure environment for some online tasks imo.

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