Dell just announced a rugged version of their Latitude D630 (starting at $3899). It’s got a sealed keyboard (dust/rain/water proof), port coverts, outdoor-capable display (500 nits), supports the option of ahving a Solid State Drive (SSD) and if you need more space (or to lower the cost), you can get a traditional mechanical drive that’s shock-mounted.
If you want to tack on $500, you can get a resistive touchscreen LCD. It does meet the US Department of Defense’s MIL-STD 810F (same as the 13.3″ GammaTech Durabook D13RY, the 12.1″ GETAC A790 , 13.3″ GETAC B300 and the 13.3″ Panasonic ToughBook CF-30 and the General Dynamics/Itronix line) and it’s a follow-up to the Latitude ATG D620.
If you are wondering why I’m mentioning a heavy 14.1″ machine here, it’s because this represents a change in the ruggedized notebook industry (although you could argue that the ATG D620 kicked it off). With the exception of Panasonic, all of the above notebooks I mentioned are from specialized companies.
I’m not saying Dell is going to radically change the market for ruggedized notebooks anytime soon – the prices will still remain high simply because it is a highly-specialized field with requirements that are by their very nature, expensive and labor-intensive.
It’s still something to keep an eye on though, namely if they decide to put out a rugged version of their Latitude D430 line (something which would be major news). Dell doesn’t go into markets where they don’t think there is growth and a chance for profits, so they must be thinking the rugged market is only going to grow (similar to their getting into the convertible/Tablet PC market with their Dell Latitude XT).