Dell is getting ready to launch a mini-notebook that will challenge offerings from Asustek Computer, Hewlett-Packard, and others in the emerging market for lightweight machines for accessing the Internet.
"We absolutely plan on entering the market," Dell spokeswoman Anne Camden said.
While confirming that Dell is preparing to jump in headfirst, Camden declined to provide details on the upcoming products, such as price or release dates. She did say, however, that Dell plans to launch products within the "netbooks" category, which others in the industry would call mini-notebooks or ultra-mobile PCs.
Dell sees netbooks as falling between a smartphone and a full-feature laptop, in terms of functionality, Camden said. With 8.9-inch screens, the lightweight machines are made for on-the-go computing, which would appeal to bloggers and people who want to stay constantly in touch with their social networks.
The PCs also would have entertainment or multimedia functions, but Camden declined to elaborate. Other Dell officials, however, have said in recent months that the mini-machine could come in a variety of sizes and use software from Zing, a Dell subsidiary that makes a music player, according to The Wall Street Journal.
"Because of the smaller screen and keyboard, and lower amount of storage, (netbooks) should not be seen as delivering the same experience as the full-feature laptop," Camden said.
Dell's view of a netbook will place it squarely in competition with Asustek Computer's Eee PC. The popularity of the seven-inch computer has sparked the growing competition. Asustek claims to have sold more than 350,000 Eee PCs since its introduction in October 2007. The Taiwanese company says it's on track to sell between 3 million and 5 million units by the end of this year. Asustek plans to ship an 8.9-inch version around mid-year.
Hewlett-Packard on Tuesday introduced an 8.9-inch notebook called the HP 2133 Mini-Note PC for $499. Low prices are another attribute of the mini-notebooks. Asustek launched the Eee PC at a starting price of $299.
The HP machine is aimed at the education market, while Dell and Asustek target a broader consumer market. Nevertheless, all three products are likely to compete in some market segments.
While Dell has refused to provide details of its upcoming netbook, The Wall Street Journal on Thursday quoted an official at laptop-maker Compal Electronics as saying Dell would launch a Compal-made mini-notebook as early as June. The official told the newspaper that Compal aims to ship from 1 million to 2 million low-cost notebooks to Dell this year.