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Dell launches its first tablet PC; Hopes touch boosts interest; Is price an issue?

Dell on Tuesday will launch its first foray into the tablet PC market with the Latitude XT. Can Dell infuse a little interest into tablet PCs with a device that will cost you $2,499?

Dell on Tuesday will launch its first foray into the tablet PC market with the Latitude XT. Can Dell infuse a little interest into tablet PCs with a device that will cost you $2,499?

Dell Tablet
Tablet PCs (reviews) have been around for six years and beyond interest in a few verticals--healthcare and education--demand has been so-so at best. In most of my travels, the tablet PC remains an oddity reserved for geeks.

So what will Dell do to get the rest of us interested in the Windows-based tablet PC. Margaret Franco, product marketing director Latitude line of business, at Dell laid out a few core themes as it tries to take on HP and Lenovo in the tablet market. The catch: Dell's price tag is higher than rival tablet PCs.

The Latitude XT will start at $2,499, which is a premium compared to other tablet PCs, and be targeted at the general business user. "We're looking to broaden the market a bit," said Franco. Pricing, however, may be an issue. Dell's blog on the Latitude XT is already getting questions about the price tag.

Among the features that may justify the premium:

  • Dell aims to be light. The Latitude XT (Spec sheet PDF) will weigh 3.5 pounds and a little more than 4 pounds with an additional battery.
  • Touch beats the pen. "Pen input is just not intuitive," says Franco. As a result, Dell's tablet PC will be set for touch input out of the box. Dell will feature multimode between pen and touch inputs that automatically switches between the two depending on your usage. Dell worked with independent software vendors to coax Windows to be more in tune with touch screen inputs. "Traditional software loads aren't capable to expose that touch functionality," said Franco.
  • Dell focused on all-day usage. Dell will offer a slim battery that attaches to the back of the Latitude XT that will add 9 hours of power. Dell also wanted to highlight real-world usage so it used a screen more in tune with outdoor use.

What remains to be seen is whether customers will go for a tablet PC over a traditional laptop. Franco said it is possible (obviously or Dell wouldn't bother). Her argument is that Vista adoption makes for a better case for tablet PCs. The Latitude XT ships later this year. Stay tuned.