Nokia retains top spot on Greenpeace list

Nokia has retained the top spot in Greenpeace’s latest ranking of 17 consumer electronics companies over their environmental practices, while Philips and Apple made strides up the list.

Philips leaped to 4th place from 11th and Apple moved up to 10th place from 14th — best among the top 5 PC makers — in Greenpeace’s latest “Guide to Greener Electronics” report. Companies are ranked based on a number of criteria related to chemicals, e-waste and energy, and Greenpeace uses the report to help pressure companies to change.

Samsung moved up to second place from fourth, while Sony Ericcson dropped a spot to third. Sony rounded out the top five.

Greenpeace said it penalized Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and Dell for “backtracking” on their commitment to eliminate toxic vinyl plastic (PVC) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) by the end of 2009. The environmental group said only Apple and Acer are sticking by pledges to phase out the substances.

Todd Tod Arbogast, director of sustainable business at Dell, said Dell scores well on other portions of the Greenpeace scorecard but that doing away with PVCs and BVRs is challenging.

Dell unveils new rugged laptop

Most people beat up their laptops and eventually pay the price. But not so with an emerging class of so-called rugged laptops. Dell is releasing its second-generation fully-rugged model – the Latitude E6400 XFR – and the company says it provides even better protection from rain, dust and dirt, drops and spills and temperature extremes.

The 14.1-inch, 8.5 pound, touch-screen unit – which starts at $4,299 – is designed for military, first responders, oil and gas workers, factory floors and other areas where you would never dare drag a standard laptop. It’s a bit lighter and thinner than the first-generation XFR, and can get more than 13 hours of battery life with an optional 12-cell battery slice.

The unit’s chassis has what the company calls a “Ballistic Armor” protection system that Dell says provides twice the impact strength of traditional magnesium alloy. The laptop should be able to withstand a tumble from as high as four feet when closed and powered down, and three feet when open and working.

Apple’s Mac rises again. Why?

Economy, schmeconomy.

In the midst of the worst U.S. recession in 27 years, Apple — ever the trailblazer — unveiled a new line of its aesthetically pleasing and — quite frankly — financially-straitening Mac desktop computers, canvassing the entire market spectrum starting from Mac Minis at under $600 to an all-singing, all-dancing, 8-core space-shuttle-launch-capable Mac Pro for a cool $3,299.

At first glance, it would seem Apple’s caved in to pressure and finally lowered prices on its flagship computers: the company says its new top-of-the-line Mac Pro comes $300 cheaper than predecessors, while still boasting cutting-edge performance with two of Intel’s quad-core Xeon processors and 6 GB of memory upgradeable to 32 GB. Apple’s reluctance to sacrifice margins — because it makes it that much harder to rebound once the economy does — has been legendary.

But for perspective — that sort of money can get you Dell’s latest, next-to-most-powerful gaming engine — albeit sans display — a high-performance, fully tricked-out machine capable of running Crysis with all video options maxed out and still find time to pick up the groceries on the side. (Specifications:

PC giants weigh in on Windows 7

Hewlett-Packard and Dell, the world’s No. 1 and No. 2 PC makers, weighed in Thursday on Microsoft’s Windows 7 operating system, which is expected early next year.******Michael Dell, on a conference call following the company’s quarterly earnings report, was asked whether Dell is seeing any changes from enterprise customers related to Windows 7. He said:***

We’re starting to get pretty excited about Windows 7 and believe it’s going to be an important catalyst for growth. Having said that, it will also push purchases until Windows 7 comes out.

******Microsoft sounded a similar note at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference. CFO Christopher Liddell said Windows 7 could help PC sales bounce back next year. He also expects some users to delay buying a new computer to wait for Windows 7:***

We might see a bump (in PC sales) next year, just as a result of lower demand this year. It will be helpful, but it will not outweigh the general macro-economics.

******Earlier in the day at the Goldman conference, HP CFO Cathie Lesjak was also asked about the impact of Windows 7 on consumer and corporate demand:***

We didn’t think there was going to be a Vista moment. We don’t think there’s going to be a Windows 7 moment either… We are not expecting that there’s going to be this huge hockey stick effect when Windows 7 comes out. The good news is we’re hearing positive things about Windows 7.

Dell offers gifts cards for your e-junk

As part of the ongoing battle among PC makers to out-green each other, Dell says it will now take your unwanted gadgets off your hands and give you something for the privilege. Most of us are familiar with the concept of trade-ins in some form – cars, mainly – but under the program launched today, the company will exchange Dell gift cards for your e-junk.

Dell Exchange covers all sorts of products, from phones to cameras to PCs to media players. It’s partner in the program, Dealtree, will refurbish and resell the gear it can, and items with no trade-in value can be recycled for free. The program is similar to services already offered by third-party sites such as Gazelle, which pay you in cash.

A 2-minute test drive of the new Dell program turned up predictable results. An 80GB iPod classic in good shape could land you a $116 gift card from Dell — but a rickety and slow 5-year-old laptop will get you little more than an exceptionally clean conscience.

dellPhone a rumor at best – Michael Dell

The Web may be buzzing with stories about whether computer maker Dell should or shouldn’t get into the cell phone market, but the company itself  has tried to stay out of the public discussion. 
Michael Dell said on Friday that reports of Dell’s cell phone ambitions were “best described as a rumor” when chased by reporters at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. 

The analysts had this to say about the computer maker doing battle with rivals such as Apple in the cut throad phone market as well as in computers. 

 Some were encouraging:

“This strategy makes a lot of sense. Smartphones are a big opportunity and in a way they’re canibalizing notebook and netbook sales to a degree,” said Kaufman Bros analyst Shaw Wu. “It’s probably minor today but could become bigger over time as smartphones get more powerful. It’s better to go embrace the threat than doing nothing.”

CES: Dell unveils Adamo… sort of

Dell Inc on Friday finally took the wraps off its entry into the fast-growing ultra-portable segment, unveiling its new Adamo PC to an assembled crowd of media types.

Well, perhaps unveiled is not exactly the right word. More like a brief, fleeting, passing glance. There was no touching the Adamo, no turning it on, really not much of anything. Instead, a model held the Adamo aloft and moved the PC around in a variety of poses, while reporters craned their necks and did a quick visual calculation, trying to figure out how big its screen size is.

There are really only two things we can say for sure about the Adamo: it is thin and it is the color black. Dell officials refused to divulge even the barest specs, saying only that it is a ” luxury franchise” that will ship in the first half of the year.

Dell goes green, early and often

windmill.jpgGoing “green” is all the rage now in corporate America, including at Dell Inc, the world’s No. 2. maker of personal computers.

The company said last September that its goal was to become “carbon neutral” by the end of 2008. The company said on Wednesday it had reached its goal five months ahead of schedule.

The Round Rock, Texas computer maker put in place a worldwide energy-efficiency campaign and boosted its purchases of green power, verified emission reduction and renewable energy certificates. Since 2004, the amount of electricity that Dell gets from utility providers including wind, solar and methane-gas sources has grown nearly nine-fold to 116 million kilowatt-hours from 12 million kilowatt-hours.