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New $369 Dell Netbook for Schools has Germ-Busting Keyboard

May 19, 2009

An anti-microbial keyboard and a “network activity light” to let teachers know when students are surfing the Web instead of paying attention to their lessons are among the features of a netbook aimed at schools unveiled Tuesday by Dell Inc.

The germ-killing keyboard on the Dell Latitude 2100 is coated with a naturally-occurring silver material, according to David Lord, senior manager for product marketing in Dell’s business client division. It is a $20 add-on option to the Latitude 2100, which starts at $369.

Other features of the Latitude 2100 include a rubberized case to help protect against bumps and drops, and a carrying handle designed for smaller hands.

The netbook is based around Intel Corp.’s popular Atom N270 1.6-GHz CPU.

The $369 version weighs 2.9 pounds and runs Ubuntu Linux 8.1 on an 8-GB solid-state disk (SSD) drive with a three-cell battery that lasts 3.5 hours, said Lord.

The price goes to $500 for a fully-loaded version with Vista Home Basic, a 160-GB conventional hard drive, anti-microbial keyboard, touchscreen and six-cell battery for up to seven hours of battery life.

Dell already produced a line of consumer netbooks under the Inspiron Mini brand.

The Latitude 2100 “is an entirely new platform,” said Patrick Burns, senior manager for product marketing at Dell. “It is not a rebranded Dell Mini.”

Dell said the Latitude 2100 could prove useful to some companies, too. Lord said that enterprises are “gravitating to the form factor,” but he declined to comment on whether and when Dell would unveil a true business-oriented netbook, something rival Hewlett-Packard Co. did with its Mini 2140.

The Dell netbooks come in five colors with students in mind: blue, red, green, yellow and black. That, said Burns, can help for identification purposes in schools, i.e. yellow for third-graders, blue for fifth-graders.

Dell is also offering a locking, moveable cart for storing the netbooks securely in classrooms after hours. The $3,900 cart comes with a router and power to recharge the netbooks.

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