Toshiba has announced new additions to its business laptop line-up for 2010, including new Tecra corporate models, the mainstream Satellite Pro S500, and a new version of the Satellite Pro U500 with a multi-touch display.
The new Tecra A11, available immediately, and the Tecra M11, coming in April, are designed for security, manageability and longevity, Toshiba said.
The machines are based on Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 processors, with the Tecra A11 featuring a 15.4in screen and the M11 a slightly smaller 14in screen.
Both lines support 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, with an optional 3G mobile broadband module and a choice of Windows 7 Professional or XP Professional.
The Satellite Pro S500, meanwhile, is intended as an affordable mainstream laptop priced from £499 with a 15.6in TruBrite display, up to 4GB memory, 320GB hard drive and a choice of Windows 7 Professional or XP Professional.
The Satellite U500 range was launched last year, but the new £649 Satellite U500-1EX model adds touch-screen capabilities that take advantage of Windows 7's multi-touch user interface.
This model is "like a pilot product", according to Ken Chan, senior laptop product manager for Toshiba UK.
"We are testing the market to see if users are willing to accept this new format, as the touch screen adds about £150 over the price of a standard laptop, " he said.
There is now "much more interest in touch screens" following the launch of Windows 7, according to Chan.
On the corporate Tecra line, Chan said that Toshiba is "trying to keep the same stability story, but also trying to add something slightly different as well".
The difference is the new remote management capabilities provided by Intel's Core vPro update, on which the new Tecras are based, and which "offer up a whole new proposition to the market", Chan said.
"Suppose I'm a business, and I'm concerned about supporting my laptop users, and I don't want to have to keep them up to date with patches and anti-virus. I can pay some service provider to take care of that for, say, £20 per month," he said.
However, it will be up to individual resellers to provide this service, according to Chan.
"We are not going to force it down their throats, but it is a chance for resellers to sell a more reliable, robust platform," he said.
Looking to the rest of 2010, Toshiba expects to see modest growth in laptop sales of about one per cent compared with last year.
Chan believes that netbooks are "here to stay", as this segment of the market has now settled on a 10in screen format that offers an "acceptable size" to users. However, he predicted that 15in laptops are still going to be the dominant format.
Asked whether touch screens could rekindle interest in devices such as the tablet PC platform, Chan said that Toshiba is still producing stylus-driven tablet models, but that there is scope for different devices such as Apple's new iPad.
"A new device is much more likely to be successful if it 'just works' and the user doesn't have to spend 20 minutes figuring out how to use it," he said.
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