Dell enters tablet market

Computer manufacturer says advances in power management and a maturing market mean it is now time to start selling tablet PCs

Dell is working on its first design for a tablet PC, which will be called the Latitude XT.

The XT will be based on Intel's Santa Rosa platform and will almost certainly have a 12.1-inch screen. It will take a convertible form, which means it will be a notebook computer with a screen that can be twisted around to create a touchscreen slate.

Eric Greffier — the company's EMEA director of client marketing — told ZDNet UK that Dell's delayed entry into the tablet market was timely. "Historically, I do not believe there has been a market for [tablet PCs]," he said. "The convertible format is recent. All three form factors [slate, convertible and hybrid] have been fighting in a small market, and it is clearer now that convertible is the format."

Greffier also suggested that the inherent tablet PC support and enhanced handwriting recognition included with Windows Vista made the form factor more attractive, as users would in the past have had the added cost of buying the Tablet PC Edition of Windows XP.

"We wanted to wait for Vista and the Santa Rosa [Centrino Pro] ultra-low voltage platform," he added, suggesting that the new platform's enhanced power management made it possible to "have enough brightness at the LCD level" to make the tablet usable outdoors without overly compromising battery life.

Tablet PCs have been available in one form or another since the late 1980s, but became more mainstream with the introduction of Windows XP Tablet PC Edition in 2002. They have traditionally been used in a small number of vertical markets, notably healthcare, where the ability to write on a screen while walking is often seen as particularly advantageous. Most computer manufacturers have been selling tablets for a while, but Dell has held out.

Dell says it will reveal more details regarding the tablet later in the year.