The enterprise notebook space is much more interesting now that Dell has announced the Latitude Z. The Z is a 16-inch ultra-thin “preppy” notebook with some firsts for the the industry. Dell has outfitted the Latitude Z with the first wireless charging option for a notebook. That’s not all though, they’ve also made an option for wireless docking in an attempt to leave the Z totally untethered in the office. They threw the new Latitude ON capability that uses a second processor to allow working with a network without booting into Windows. This innovation won’t come cheap, though, and no doubt why the Z is aimed firmly at the enterprise market.
The hardware of the Latitude Z is impressive, starting with magnesium alloy in the Black Cherry finish with a soft touch finish. The 16-inch screen displays 1600×900 and is accompanied by a backlit chiclet keyboard and a multitouch trackpad. There is an option to outfit the Z with two SSD drives for maximum storage capacity. The notebook weighs in at a respectable 4.4 pounds and is only 14.5 mm (0.57 inches) thick. The power adapter is small and light for easy portability.
The Latitude ON feature is different than other instant-on methods currently used, as this has a dedicated second processor to make it work more efficiently. A 1-inch square motherboard contains an ARM processor and small amount of memory (512 MB or so) to power the Latitude ON feature. Dell believes that in the corporate environment, where applications are served on Citrix or Exchange Servers, the Latitude Z user can spend most of his/her day in the Latitude ON environment. This means no booting to Windows, although the Z can toggle via button press between the two environments. The Latitude ON environment is fully connected via VPN or other secure methods to the enterprise network. It runs as a client in the setup, not a standalone system. The ARM processor used allows the system to shut down the Intel processor when not in use so the Z can maintain decent battery life in this environment.
The most impressive innovation that Dell brings to the Z is the wireless charging. This is accomplished via a notebook stand that is plugged into the standard power adapter. The notebook is set on the stand and instantly begins charging. While inductive charging is prone to lose up to half of the energy due to the technology, Dell maintains their method charges at over 70 percent efficiency. The notebook plugs in normally when away from the stand. The wireless charging requires an optional module in the notebook in addition to the stand. Both pieces will cost about $200 each, making the system add a fair chunk of change to the package.
Dell is not content to have wireless charging, they are also making an option available for a wireless dock. This dock will operate over UWB and in addition to standard USB functions will handle wireless video using DVI on the dock. It is conceivable that the Z owner could have the notebook and charging stand concealed, and with the addition of a hidden wireless dock have just a keyboard, mouse and display on the desk with no wires. The price of the wireless dock is not known yet.
There is a 2 MP webcam on the Latitude Z with autofocus, and three features to take advantage of it. The Dell FaceAway utility is a facial recognition similar to that of competitor’s that will log the user on by scanning the face with the camera. There is also a utility to scan business cards into Outlook using the camera, with built-in OCR. Lastly, the webcam is a document scanner that can convert paper documents into digital PDFs by holding them in front of the camera.
The Latitude Z has all of the standard capabilities we expect in notebooks in addition to the fancy stuff we’ve described. There is Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and integrated 3G available for configuration. The new Latitude is available today in the U. S., select countries in Europe and Asia, and in Canada. This technology won’t come cheap, with the basic configuration starting at $1,999. Complete information can be obtained through the Latitude Z web site.