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Dell's got a new Latitude

The computer maker becomes the latest in a growing list of firms offering a magnesium encased ultraportable computer.

Dell Computer yesterday became the latest in a growing list of vendors offering a magnesium encased ultraportable computer.

Dell is now offering a one-inch thick, 3.09 pound Latitude LT notebook. The $2,299 Latitude LT features a 266-MHz Pentium MMX processor, a 11.3-inch active matrix screen, 64MB of memory, and a 4.3GB hard disk drive.

The Latitude LT, packaged in a magnesium cover, is following a metallic trend seen in notebooks such as Hewlett-Packard's Sojourn, Sony's Vaio 505GX, and Gateway's Solo 3100 SE. Unlike other vendors, which have largely stayed with a gold color scheme, Dell's system is powder blue.

Ultraportables are basically slimmer and lighter than their full-fledged notebook cousins, usually through the use of a smaller screen and deletion of an internal CD-ROM.

The market for ultraportables probably won't amount to more than 10 percent of the overall mobile market, according to Dataquest. Still, Dell said it sees a growing interest in such devices in the U.S., and such devices are already well-loved in notebook-happy Japan, which makes up 25 percent of notebook sales in the worldwide market.

"As we see the notebook market continue to grow and evolve, we see this market emerging," said Jay Parker, Latitude brand manager for Dell. "Within business accounts, [there is] a very influential group of [executives or professionals] that needs this," he said.

Industry observers say that while magnesium is the hot trend in design, they can only be made available in a limited range of colors, and it is hard to attach rubberized feet to the lightweight metal.

In other news, Dell entered an agreement with a unit of GTE to integrate's Internet access service into Dell's Dimension line of personal computers. The collaboration with GTE Internetworking will enable Dell customers to choose GTE as their access provider when they log onto the Internet.

"Most of our customers cite Internet access as a primary reason they're buying a PC," said Paul Bell, senior vice president and general manager of Dell's Home and Small Business Group. "We want Dell customers to be able to get onto the Internet within five minutes of turning on one of our machines.", the dial-up Internet access provider for GTE Internetworking, currently has over 600 nationwide local points of presence and services over 800,000 dial-up accounts.