Dell prepping Windows tablet, refreshing PCs

SAN FRANCISCO Tue Feb 8, 2011 7:57pm GMT

A customer looks at laptops at a Dell outlet in Beijing December 13, 2010. REUTERS/Christina Hu

A customer looks at laptops at a Dell outlet in Beijing December 13, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Christina Hu

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Dell Inc showed off a tablet device for business users that runs Microsoft's Windows software, as the personal computer company continues to push aggressively into the mobile market.

Although many analysts believe the current version of Windows is not a good fit for touchscreen tablets, Dell said its commercial customers are looking for the familiarity and security of the Microsoft environment in a more portable package.

The world's No. 2 maker of personal computers has already launched tablets that run on Google's Android mobile software.

"Why are we working on all these flavours of products? Because our customers are asking us to," said Steve Lalla, general manager of Dell's business client group, during a media event on Tuesday.

Dell provided a brief sneak peek of a 10-inch Windows tablet as it introduced a redesigned line of commercial laptops and desktop PCs. The company called it the largest ever refresh of its business PC line, with 39 new products slated to hit the market this year.

Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies called the launch one of Dell's "strongest in years."

He said Dell Windows 7 tablet will by necessity be targeted and optimized for certain business segments such as education and healthcare. "You won't see a more widespread adoption of Windows on tablets until Windows 8 comes along," Bajarin said.

Dell expects its Windows tablet to launch sometime in mid-2011.

Much of buzz in the computing world these days is focussed on tablets, although they are still are only a fraction of tractional PC sales.

"Rumours of the death of the PC have been greatly exaggerated," said Rick Echevarria, general manager of business client platforms for Intel, which dominates the PC chip market but has little presence in tablets.

Although PC sales continue to see modest growth, the tablet and smartphone sectors are exploding. Dell's recent foray into both markets is part of its overall drive to diversify its business, which is heavily reliant on PC sales.

The tablet market is dominated by Apple's iPad, with a whole host of Android-based models set to hit the market this year. Dell rival Hewlett-Packard is expected to show off a new tablet based on Palm's webOS software at an event Wednesday.

HP launched a business-focussed Windows tablet last year, but analysts say it has seen poor sales.

In an interview, Lalla compared Dell's Windows tablet -- which will run on Intel chips -- to a netbook without a keyboard. It will enable customers to use their legacy Windows applications.

(Reporting by Gabriel Madway; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)