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3/6/2014
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Dell Unveils Rugged Laptop For Education

Dell's lineup for education now includes Chrome OS, Android, and Windows.

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Dell on Thursday announced the Latitude 13, an education-geared notebook built to withstand the knocks and tumbles to which kids often subject their devices. With the new announcement, Dell's products for students now range from Chromebooks to Windows 8.1 convertibles to Android tablets to Windows 7 laptops -- a variety with which the newly private company hopes to combat the falling PC market.

Starting at $539 and available immediately, the Latitude 13 offers a 13.3-inch 1366-by-768-pixel screen, up to 8 GB of RAM, and processor options that range from an Intel Celeron Dual Core chip all the way to a Core i5. Buyers can choose between Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 configurations, as well as touch and non-touch options, the latter of which includes scratch-resistant screens protected by Corning Gorilla Glass.

The device includes a rubberized trim and sealed keyboard to help it survive inevitable spills in the cafeteria. The lid offers more than 180 degrees of motion, which Dell says not only makes the hinge more durable, but also allows the notebook to be laid flat, potentially lending touch-equipped models to tablet-like classroom collaboration scenarios. The back of the screen features an LED that lights when the Latitude is online, alerting teachers to any students who might be checking Facebook instead of taking lecture notes.

The Dell Latitude 13 notebook can lie flat thanks to screen hinges that support more than 180 degrees of motion.
The Dell Latitude 13 notebook can lie flat thanks to screen hinges that support more than 180 degrees of motion.

Dell offers two battery options: a 4-cell battery that should make it through the school day, or a 6-cell battery that goes longer between charges. Depending on the battery and screen configuration, the Latitude weighs between 3.7 and 4.3 pounds. It includes USB, HDMI, Ethernet, and Mini DisplayPort connections, as well as an SD card slot and an HD webcam. It is not available with an optical drive. However, buyers can upgrade from the base 500-GB conventional hard drive to various SSD options. Dell offers the notebook with its management and security add-ons, including Dell Data Protection.

Dell also announced its Mobile Computer Cart, which can hold up to 30 netbooks, ultrabooks, or tablets. The company said the cart is compatible with non-Dell brands and should support most devices with screens up to 14 inches. It is available with an optional upgrade kit that allows schools to dock devices to Ethernet connections and power sources, enabling overnight IT updates and potentially simplifying device maintenance. It will be available in April for $799 for the basic version and $3,999 including the upgrade kit.  

Dell's new Mobile Computer Cart for schools can hold and charge up to 30 devices.
Dell's new Mobile Computer Cart for schools can hold and charge up to 30 devices.

In the months since founder and CEO Michael Dell took the company private, Dell has announced a number of cloud partnerships intended to bolster its identity as an enterprise services provider. Heading into the buyout, however, Dell's revenues still relied disproportionately on its PC business. The research firm IDC forecast this week that PC shipments, which declined an unprecedented 9.8% in 2013, will fall 6% this year.  

[Google Chromebooks are more popular than you might think. Read Where Are All The Chromebooks?]

By focusing on education, a market in which there is reliable demand for PCs, Dell could bring some balance to its device efforts. But even in classrooms, the landscape is changing; Windows is no longer the only operating system customers care about, and device preferences range from tablets to two-in-one convertibles to conventional laptops. For that reason, Dell has diversified its lineup for schools, which includes recently introduced models such as its Chromebook 11 notebook and Venue and Venue Pro tablets, as well as accessories ranging from attachable keyboards for the Venue Pros to the new Mobile Computer Cart.

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Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

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Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
3/8/2014 | 2:17:12 PM
Re: What about funding?
"...at least we can say we were the spark that started it all."


Indeed! Sounds like a very cool and rewarding project. Thanks for following up.
Gary_EL
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Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
3/7/2014 | 7:30:33 PM
Re: What about funding?
It was so successful that it attracted outside attention, and they got a grant - to buy a roomful of Apple computers! Then, we sort of got the boot. I can't say I blame them, why wouldn't they want their students to work with more mainstream computers? Needless to say, the Ubuntu true believers were unhappy, but they had to do what's best for their students - at least we can say we were the spark that started it all.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
3/7/2014 | 3:33:57 PM
Re: What about funding?
Thanks for sharing, Gary, sounds really cool. Is the project ongoing? It sounds like it was successful, and cost-effective. Have the benefits spurred growth in the program?

Any of our readers who are involved in education who would consider Ubuntu machines instead of Windows in a context like this?
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
3/7/2014 | 7:05:14 AM
Re: What about funding?
That's a fascinating volunteer project Gary, thanks for sharing your creativity
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
3/7/2014 | 7:05:13 AM
Re: What about funding?
That's a fascinating volunteer project Gary, thanks for sharing your creativity
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
3/7/2014 | 6:55:18 AM
Re: Rugged?
I find it interesting, and the price pretty good. If I'm buying just for my kid I don' t know that the rugged factor is essential, but if I'm buying "by the cart" for a school, I think rugged is key
Gary_EL
IW Pick
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Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
3/7/2014 | 12:11:06 AM
What about funding?
I don't know how many school districts can afford $539a
student - and that's just for starters.
 
I was involved with a project in one of the after school
centers in Boston where we'd get hold of cast off computers
and get them working again. We installed Ubuntu on the
machines, which even the obsolete cast off's could handle.
The beauty of it was that the machines were plenty good for
wordprocessing and learing how to use the internet, but WAY
too weak for gaming. Plus, that operating system is made for
tinkers; there is tons of free software installable at a
push of a button. Everyone became internet savvy, and a
couple of kids REALLY Took Off.

The cost? They bought us pizza!
WKash
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WKash,
User Rank: Author
3/6/2014 | 5:29:56 PM
Re: Rugged?
It probably wasn't too hard for Dell, which had knew what it takes to pass military drop specs, to take some of hardened tech and reapply it.  Funny when you think how there's a whole aftermarket to protect smartphones and virtually nothing like it for laptops.  That said, a little more rugged unit might be worth the price compared to what retailers charge for add on insurance.

 
RobPreston
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RobPreston,
User Rank: Author
3/6/2014 | 5:29:19 PM
Re: Rugged?
...requiring the user to type with pinky extended upward.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
3/6/2014 | 5:00:33 PM
Re: Chrome
I suppose Microsoft can take some satisfaction in the fact that Windows still accounts for most of Dell's line-up-- both the Venue Pro tablets run Windows 8.1, and the Latitude 13 can be either Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. But they also have an Android-based Venue tablet and the Chromebook, and in discussing the education slate, company reps made sure to emphasize the full spectrum of offerings.

Microsoft's recent ads have attacked Chromebooks more than iPads, though, so I think it's safe to say Microsoft's not thrilled. The upcoming Windows update is supposed to enable OEMs to produce low-cost devices, which can be seen as a reaction to Chrome's invasion of Microsoft's turf.
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