Dell business laptop gets wireless battery charging

Dell also is bundling the Arm chip into Latitude Z laptops for quick boot and 'always-on' capabilities

Dell introduced the Latitude Z business laptop, which includes a new wireless charging technology that could eventually find its way into other Dell systems, the company said on Tuesday.

The Latitude Z can be placed on a special stand that generates an electromagnetic field to recharge laptop batteries wirelessly. The technology, which Dell calls inductive charging, takes the same amount of time to recharge laptop batteries as an AC adapter, said Steve Belt, vice president of business client engineering at Dell.

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"There's a coil in the bottom of the notebook and then there's a matching coil in the stand. You set them next to each other and it generates a current that flows and charges the battery," Belt said.

This is the first time Dell has included wireless recharging in its laptops. The recharging stand must be purchased separately, however, as an optional extra. The technology could help reduce the dependency on power adapters traditionally used to recharge laptops.

Dell is also adding new hardware that will allow the laptop to boot quickly while giving it "always-on" capabilities similar to those in a smartphone. The laptop includes an Arm processor -- a type of chip more often found in smartphones -- to boot a laptop quickly for fast access to commonly used Web applications like e-mail and a Web browser. The processor is included alongside an Intel processor, which is used to run the Windows OS.

The laptop is a vehicle to demonstrate some of the latest mobility features Dell could ultimately put in more of its business laptops, Belt said. Inclusion of some of those features in further laptops will depend on how the market responds to the technologies, Belt said.

Wireless charging is already being used in some consumer electronics like mobile phones. For example, Palm sells a kit to recharge its Palm Pre smartphone using inductive charging, also known as inductive coupling. Similar technology is being used to recharge electronic toothbrushes and even power tools.

The quick-boot environment, called Latitude On, boots the laptop in a few seconds, after which users have access to applications include e-mail, contacts, calendar and the Web. Based on a lightweight version of Linux, the environment reduces the need to fully boot into Windows to run certain applications.

Dell adopted the Arm chip for the quick-boot environment as it morphs the laptop into a smartphone-like device, Belt said.

"Because it doesn't run Intel and it doesn't run [Windows], it get gobs of battery life. It's like taking a big battery and strapping it to my Blackberry." Belt said. The quick-boot battery life could range from 12 hours up to two days if the laptop is often in sleep mode, Belt said.

The laptop can also connect to an optional wireless dock via ultrawideband technology, allowing users to move around the room with the laptop without being tethered by wires. The dock, in turn, connects to peripherals using wires. It has a DVI (digital visual interface) port to connect to a monitor, and USB ports to connect to peripherals like keyboards, printers and mice.

The Latitude Z has a 16-inch screen, weighs 4.5 pounds (2 kilograms) and measures one inch at its thinnest point. It runs on Intel's Core 2 Duo low-voltage dual-core chips at speeds of 1.4GHz to 1.6GHz. The laptop supports up to 4GB of RAM and 512GB of storage through two solid-state drives. Dell offers multiple wireless options including Wi-Fi 802.11 a/g/n and mobile broadband connectivity through 3G or WiMax networks.

The laptop starts at $1,999 and is available in the U.S., Canada, and certain countries in Europe and Asia, Dell said.


Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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