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Dell: New notebooks will be WANderful

Dell Computer Corp. is preparing to take a giant leap into the wireless market by equipping its notebooks with wireless wide-area networking (WAN) capabilities.

AUSTIN, Texas -- Dell Computer Corp. is preparing to take a giant leap into the wireless market.

The company has been shipping local-area network (LAN) wireless products for its notebooks, based on the 802.11 wireless standard, for about a year. Now Dell wants to invest its notebook with wireless wide-area networking (WAN) capabilities.

Chairman and CEO Michael Dell on Thursday described his vision for the ultimate wireless notebook to reporters at Direct Connect, the PC maker's two-day customer confab here.

When faced with the decision of offering customers wide-area wireless capabilities in a cellular phone or a notebook PC, Dell said he sees more value in a notebook with a wide-area connection.

There are several flavors of wide-area wireless technologies, Dell said. "Our objective is to integrate them into our products to provide the Net unleashed."

Customers want WAN notebooks
Dell believes many customers would like to see a three-pound Latitude notebook that offers wide-area wireless capabilities. "It's a lot easier to put data in your notebook than it is to put data in your phone," he said to reporters at a media event following the keynote speech.

Possibly at the bequest of its chairman, Dell's Personal Systems Group is developing such three-pound, wide-area wireless notebooks.

"Those are on the (Dell product) roadmap" said Carl Everett, vice president and general manager of Dell's Personal Systems Group in an interview with ZDNet News.

Wireless is one of the three most important initiatives for the Personal Systems Group, Everett said. The others are increasing quality and improving customer support, using Dell's E-support, a method of support that allows users to press a button on some Dell desktop and notebook PCs to contact Dell support online.

GPRS coming
Everett said the company has GPRS modems for Dell notebooks under development. GPRS is a wide-area wireless technology for use with next-generation cellular networks, otherwise known as 2.5G.

However, "We want to make the integration that's appropriate for the notebook work," he said.

As Dell did with its 802.11 technology, the company will likely first offer wide-area wireless products for its notebooks' PC Card slots.

"That's the door through which all technology goes through," Everett said.

Later, the wide-area technology could be moved inside Dell notebooks, using Mini PCI.

Dell's newest Latitude notebook PCs offer a built-in antenna. They will utilize 802.11 wireless LAN through the addition of internal Mini PCI 802.11 cards. Those cards are expected later in the year or early next year, Dell officials said.