Dell has launched two new laptop computers aimed at the middle of the marketplace for people performing small business tasks.

The company said that the Inspiron 6400 and Inspiron E1505 were the first Dell products to provide technologies previously available only on high-end systems, packed into a six-pound package.

The Inspiron E1505 is designed to be a multimedia tool, capable of playing movies and photos, music, and - with an additional tuner and Internet link - television.

The Inspiron 6400 offers enough horsepower to allow home-office and small-business customers to run demanding office applications for untethered productivity.

Dell explained that the key technology was Intel's Core Duo processor because the chip's architecture allowed users to juggle simultaneous tasks, such as editing spreadsheets while running virus scans.

The company said that the models were built for speed when handling image or song files. Users can access digital media without booting Windows, thanks to a one-button MediaDirect function. And they can access those files on an attached storage device with a 5-in-1 media card reader or ExpressCard slot.

This launch marks the second time in a week that a major PC vendor has aimed new products at the fast-growing small and medium business (SMB) market. Last Thursday, Lenovo announced its 3000-series of Intel-powered notebooks and either Intel or AMD-powered desktops. Lenovo's new products are priced much lower than Dell's for the cost-sensitive end of the market.

Those standard configurations also include Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, 15.4-inch display screen, 512MB DDR2 memory, 40GB hard drive, six-cell battery, and one-year limited warranty.