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New Dell portable comes in five colors

The Inspiron 4000 packs new 800-MHz and 850-MHz Pentium III processors and also offers colorful snap-on accents.

Dell Computer today continues its launch of stylized products with the Inspiron 4000 notebook.

Aimed at consumers, the portable packs new 800-MHz and 850-MHz Mobile Pentium III processors announced by Intel today and also offers some colorful options in its exterior design. Last week, Dell put an emphasis on style, unveiling a new PC chassis design and curvaceous corporate notebooks with integrated wireless capability.

The new Inspiron features snap-on accents, available in five colors, that fit on the back of the LCD display and on the palm rest. This is not Dell's first foray with colorful portables. A year ago, the company unveiled the Inspiron 3800 in four colors.

The accents for the 4000 come in five colors: royal purple, golden yellow, tahoe blue, storm gray and midnight gray. Midnight gray, Dell's new signature color, will replace beige on all systems--PCs, portables, workstations and servers--by next August.

Snap-on color accents have been something of a trend recently. Compaq Computer Presario and Hewlett-Packard Pavilion consumer PCs introduced this summer also let buyers switch colors rather than being locked into one.

IBM last year started offering colorful snap-on lids for its ThinkPad i Series 1400 portables. IBM no longer sells that series or the accents. Dell is still selling the Inspiron 3800.

Prices for the Inspiron 4000 start at $1,699 for a system with a 600-MHz Pentium III processor, 14.1-inch XGA display, 64MB of RAM, 8MB of video memory, 6GB hard drive and Windows ME.

While Dell indulges in some whimsy with the Inspiron, Dataquest analyst Mike McGuire said the company is likely to take a more conservative approach with its commercial Latitude portables.

"What you'll find is where they make their money is on stability as much as whether you have the weirdest, lightest ultraportable," he said. "No, that's not why you go to a company like Dell. You go for stability of product lines. These things aren't pieces of art. They are tools."

During a press briefing last week, CEO Michael Dell said the Latitude is one of the company's fastest-growing product lines.

"If you look at the fastest-growing product segment--notebooks sold to businesses--we had more than two times the share of the other (leading) companies," he said.

Round Rock, Texas-based Dell led the U.S. portables market during the second quarter, according to Dataquest. Dell had a 21.5 percent share of the market, compared with second-ranked Compaq's 16.6 percent share. Toshiba followed with 13.4 percent, IBM with 12.1 percent and HP with 5.8 percent.

Worldwide, Dell tied with IBM for third place, capturing 11.8 percent of the market. Toshiba led with 14.8 percent share, followed by Compaq at 13.1 percent.

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