Dell launches ‘germ-free’ netbooks for US schools

Dell has launched a netbook aimed at schools which sports 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.

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Dell has launched a netbook aimed at schools which sports 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.

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, currently only available in the US, on a machine which starts at $369. UK pricing, for a non- disinfected machine, begins at £259.

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

The netbook is based around Intel'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.

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.

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