New light Dell Latitude due soon

Michael Dell shows up at the Future in Review conference toting a Latitude D420 laptop that has yet to be announced. Photo: Dell intros new Latitude

CORONADO, Calif.--Michael Dell on Monday spilled the beans on an unannounced business notebook scheduled to arrive from his company in about a month.

During a session at the Future in Review conference here, Dell brought the Latitude D420 up on stage with conference chairman Mark Anderson to kick off a wide-ranging conversation on the future of the PC market. The D420 is a lightweight version of the company's other Latitude notebooks, with a 12-inch screen and a dual-core processor from Intel. It will also connect to mobile broadband networks, Dell said.

Latitude D420

A Dell representative declined to comment further on the specifications or price of the notebook.

Notebooks have been a big part of the PC industry's success over the last few years. Looking forward into the hazy future, Dell said that mobile broadband connections will be as ubiquitous as current Wi-Fi chips, whether it's cellular network connections like the chips found in the new Latitude D420 or future WiMax chips. It's also likely that in five years, the average business notebook will have as much processing power as a high-end workstation that currently costs several thousand dollars, he said.

Emerging markets have also been a prevalent topic during the conference, which seeks to predict the future of the technology industry over the next three to five years. Dell, like every PC company, is looking at selling into these markets and also expanding its operations in countries around the world. Dell plans to double its headcount in India over the next three years, from 10,000 employees to 20,000, he said.

It will still take many years before some of these emerging markets reach the consumption levels of the developed world, Dell said. In the mobile phone market, that's already happened in a few places, but PCs are very different because of the cost and the infrastructure required to set up broadband connections to those PCs, he said.

The company warned investors last week that revenue and profits for its first quarter are expected to fall short of previous estimates. Dell didn't directly touch on the earnings warning a few days three days ahead of the official earnings announcement, but acknowledged that things hadn't gone as well as he had hoped.

"I think there are lots of opportunities for us to do quite a bit better than we did last year," he said. "We didn't recognize how competitive the market was going to be."

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