Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dell brings wireless recharging to laptops

Dell is releasing a new laptop for business customers is the opposite of surprising. But the fact that it contains notable features not seen in any other laptops certainly is.

Most everything about the new Latitude Z is expected: It's yet another very thin notebook (a metric which PC manufacturers keep using to try to one-up each other), with a different kind of exterior finish (soft-touch, in this case), and comes in a black cherry. It measures 16 inches across, and is 14 millimeters thin at its most narrow point.

But you probably wouldn't guess that the Latitude Z charges wirelessly. And as far as we can tell, it's the first laptop to do so. Surprised that this is coming from Dell? You're not alone.

The wireless charging is handled elegantly enough. An inductive pad that's built into a laptop stand can accomplish a full recharge in "about the same amount of time" as a standard-issue cabled charger, according to Dell. While smartphone maker Palm has a similar (albeit smaller) wireless charging system for the Pre, and companies like Visteon and Wild Charge have debuted wireless charging accessories for phones, no PC maker has incorporated the idea until now.

Most people aren't used to seeing Dell trying new things like this, some of it actually ahead of competitors. Last year, we wrote about how Dell was starting to be a little more risky about the types of products it was trying out. Not new to the market, just new to Dell, which has traditionally had a habit of waiting, analyzing the market's response to new products, and jumping in later with a more efficient, and less expensive way of making that product.

But that way of doing things is over for Dell now. The company has struggled to find the right mix of products and now has less opportunity to be picky. But it's a good sign that the company is trying out smaller, more innovative, and more practical ideas like wireless charging, docking, instant on, and touch interfaces. Though it's only in the Latitude Z right now, we hear these features are stirring a lot of interest in other product groups at Dell. It's easy to see how, for a cheaper price (the Z starts at $1,999), these new features could find much broader acceptance with retail customers.

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