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by Mike Zazaian September 19, 2006 - 10:49am, 2 Comments

A Challenger 2 tank, much more durable than a Dell rugged notebook

PC powerhouse Dell is looking to expand their notebook lineup by adding some beat-em-up rugged laptops and ultraportables to the mix.

According to Alex Gruzen, general manager of Dell’s product group, the company has been looking to expand into both the rugged and ultraportable notebook segments, two areas which it sees as growing markets.

I think we could expand the whole [rugged notebook] market, said Gruzen in a recent eWeek interview. The new lineup of rugged notebooks, aimed to include Tablet PC versions of the computers, would be targeted at military and police applications, as well the consumer market. Dell’s Latitude notebook models would be the basis for the new rugged lineup.

Such notebooks are built to withstand damage, often built with more durable materials than standard laptops. Shock-absorbers are often used for critical internal parts such as hard drives, and waterproofing would also be implemented for uses in which, er, water might be a hazard.

It’s not as if this is the first foray into rugged notebooks by PC manufacturers, though. Panasonic’s Toughbook, a similar rugged-notebook design, has been around for years. Sales of the ToughBooks, however, haven’t been staggering, selling only a small amount of such books to similar government and police outfits.

But despite the lackluster history of Rugged notebooks, Gruzen seems ready to attack the market head-on:

Customers have had to look to other suppliers to fulfill their needs. [But a Dell rugged machine] could be pretty appealing in that it could make the deployment of a rugged version [of a Dell notebook] easier.

It’s difficult to say whether such bold aspirations are akin to those that made Dell an enormous player in the PC market, or those that have brought Dell some infamy in recent years for shoddy build quality. Either way, Dell’s going for the gusto, and it’ll be up to the general public to determine their fate, and quarterly earnings.

[via eWeek]