Dell has revamped its range of business friendly Latitude products, with a nice ultrabook on top. The Latitude 7000 is the new anorexic flagship, while Latitude 5000 and 3000 series products are designed with SMBs, education and small customers in mind.
The 7000 is quite a looker, a far cry from dull business designs of the past. The 12-incher is 20mm thick and it weighs just 2.99 pounds, which is not bad but it’s still a bit bulkier than the MacBook Air. However, unlike the Air, it is also available with a 14-inch screen, tucked underneath a carbon lid. All the usual business features are on board, like Intel vPro processors, TPM, optional fingerprint and smartcard readers, as well as NFC.
Battery life should be good, too. Dell promises up to 8.5 hours on a small three-cell power pack, which is pretty good. It can use existing E Docks as well as wireless WiGig docks. USB 3.0 and HDMI are on board as well. Although it’s thin and light, it is rather rugged and it complies with MIL-STD 810G.
Base models ship with 1366×768 matte screens, but they are available with 1080p touchscreens, with a pane of Gorilla Glass on top. The 14-inch is available with a matte, non-touch 1080p panel. Both models ship with SSDs as standard, but the 14-inch version can also be ordered with a hybrid drive for more storage on a budget.
The entry level 3000 series and the mid-range 5000 series come in two sizes, 14 and 15 inches. They can also be ordered with touchscreens and due to their size they offer a lot more options under the bonnet, including discrete graphics, a bigger choice of processors, three different battery sizes and hard drives ranging up to 1TB, or SSDs up to 256GB.
Pricing starts at $599 for the 3000 series, but the sleek 7000 series is a lot pricier, starting at $1,049 in the US. There is still no word on 5000 series pricing.
PC shipments have been slow for months and they should start bottoming out soon, but the PC cause is being undermined by pricey laptops, analysts believe. A new breed of high-end designs based on Haswell parts is shipping, but their prices seem out of touch with reality.
Buyers just don’t want to pay the premium for new chips, touchscreens or new form factors – and that premium can be quite steep. Most new Haswell laptops and ultrabooks cost a lot more than the average budget laptop and quite a few of them are priced north of £1,000.
“The thought that you can sell a $1,400 notebook is ridiculous. The mess is partly credited to Windows 8,” said Roger Kay, president and principal analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates, reports IDG News Service. “In their bones they don’t get it. They refuse to deal with the reality of what’s going on.”
Mikako Kitagawa, research analyst at Gartner, believes laptop prices have stabilized and may even creep up. PC vendors are trying to position laptops as premium products compared to tablets, which means they are more likely to focus on high-end and mid-range models, with higher margins.
This may leave more room for cheaper brands, who could focus on entry level laptops, but then again such laptops are experiencing high cannibalization rates from tablets, so the trend is a mixed bag at best. Still, someone always finds a way to make the most of a crisis and we reckon Chromebook makers could do well in such a climate.
However, things aren’t that great in the high-end, either. Now that most people are used to dirt cheap laptops and equally cheap tablets, convincing them to pay more for “premium” models won’t be easy.
Other than prestige or brand snobbery, it’s really hard to make a convincing case for high-end laptops right now. There will be no shortage of executives willing to pay £1,000 or more for a stylish piece of kit, or enthusiasts who go for even pricier, boutique offerings. However, most users will probably be better off buying a budget model for £500 and spending the rest on a tablet, or a vacant apartment complex in Spain.
Intel said yesterday it will host a symposium in Taipei to discuss the development of 2-in-1 hybrids with supply chain partners. The event is part of Intel’s push for cheaper x86 devices, which could take on ARM-based tablets, at least in theory.
Intel knows that x86 tablets are simply too pricey to compete with ARM tablets, both on the hardware and software fronts. However, if it manages to push prices down, upcoming 2-in-1s could still be competitive.
Intel VP and general manager of global ecosystem development Zane Ball told reporters that he expects prices of 2-in-1s to fall next year, thanks to lower component costs. He said most companies are currently capable of delivering $399 devices, but the real challenge will be getting the price down to $299, reports Focus Taiwan.
It won’t be easy. At the moment there are just 15 products that fit Intel’s 2-in-1 spec and the number is expected to grow to 60 designs next year. These are hardly impressive figures and many analysts believe Intel will have a very tough time marketing the devices, especially if prices remain high.
However, although $299 is still not enough to combat cheap Android tablets, it is still an interesting price point. Cheap 2-in-1s could do well in some niche markets. They sound like the perfect upgrade for netbook users and they could steal some market share from Google’s ultra-cheap Chromebooks.
Higher end models could be a replacement for ultraportables and small Ultrabooks.
Earlier this year Seagate and Western Digital introduced a range of 5-millimetre and 7-millimetre HDDs/SSHDs and it appears they will have no shortage of customers. According to IHS, sales of 5- and 7-millimetre drives will soar to 133 million units by 2017, up from just five million last year.
Ultra thin hard drives and hybrid drives are used in Ultrabooks and other thin devices, which are expected to slowly squeeze more traditional form factors out of the consumer market in coming years.
IHS reckons shipments of 9.5mm drives will drop to 79 million units by 2017, down from 245 million in 2012, reports Electronicsfeed.
However, it won’t all be smooth sailing for hard drive makers. Shipments of SSDs are still growing at a fast pace. SSD shipments are projected to climb some 90 percent this year, hitting 64.6 million units, whereas hard drives shipments are slowing down. They are expected to drop five percent to 545.8 million units. Ultra thin hard drives and hybrids will help in the short term, but SSDs will continue to find new markets as prices of NAND drop.
The big hope for hard drive makers is that they will manage to score more design wins with their new thin drives, as they are still a lot cheaper than SSDs. This is where they can expect some help from Microsoft, as Windows 8.x is a lot more bloated than iOS or Android, so there is a chance that cheap Windows hybrids and tablets will have to use mechanical drives, or hybrid drives.
“Both the thinner HDDs along with hybrid HDDs could even start finding acceptance in ultrathin PCs and tablet PCs—two products that now mostly use solid-state drives as their storage element. Hard disks have lost market share to SSDs, which offer better performance and can be more easily used to achieve a thinner and lighter form factor crucial to tablets and ultrathin PCs,” said Fang Zhang, storage systems analyst at IHS.
In the long run, however, hard drives have no place in tablets or hybrids, or 2-in-1s as Intel likes to call them these days. In any case they are a cheap and proven interim alternative, as they will enable vendors to come up with cheaper ultrathin devices before SSD prices come down to acceptable levels.
Fashion bag maker Intel has come up with a new cunning plan now it appears that Ultrabooks are not working as well in India as it thought.
According to the Hindu, Chipzilla is looking at laptop distribution schemes backed by various State Governments.
Intel will revamp its Ultrabook marketing strategy in India after two years where the hardware has been a damp squib.
Despite some heavy promotion, Ultrabooks form less than seven per cent of global notebook sales.
An Intel spokesman insisted that the Ultrabook was not a failure at all. It was just that the adoption of new form factors took some time.
He claimed that the “innovation” that the Ultrabook brought on has had a waterfall effect on the whole range of products.
Talking about the Ultrabook’s pricing strategy the Intel spokesman said the overall trend had slowly come downward over a period of time.
He said that Chipzilla had invested a lot into the surrounding “ecosystem” to ensure better availability. It was increasing its focus on the retail segment while channelling its marketing efforts towards wooing the first-time buyer.
Intel Technology India has also been rolling out a new CPU offering that is tailor-made for the education segment.
An Intel spokesman called Nick Jacobs said that there are so many companies bidding for huge government orders, and we thought about how we could help them add value to the process.
He said that Intel was in talks with almost all of the leading OEMs to sell a package which includes education software and a new processor.