I'll try to address several of the interesting issues raised so far. My main conclusions are that a successor to Inspiron 8600 is unlikely to appear in the near future, but Latitude D800 might get an upgrade in April or May which could make it comparable with Inspiron 8600.
My claims vs Inspiron 8600 are based on the following arguments.
1. Ignoring video cards momentarily, Inspiron 8600 is still up-to-date on the most important performance components: Pentium M up to 1.7GHz, PC2700 333MHz memory, and an optional 7200 rpm HDD. Apparently other vendors don't offer more, especially with WUXGA displays.
2. The video options of I8600 don't look bad relative to competitive notebooks with Pentium M.
3. Since it was introduced at the end of August '03, it is still regarded as a fairly new model by reviewers and users.
4. Apparently the 855PM chipset of I8600 will accomodate Dothan.
5. The Alviso chipsets (915GM, 915PM, 910GML) aren't expected until Q3.
6. The 533MHz FSB should appear in Q4.
From another angle, I don't think the Inspiron "high-performance" Pentium M line will be discontinued, since Latitudes are aimed at corporate users. Further, XPS/9100 is another story.
As for Latitude D800, points 4, 5 and 6 above suggest we shouldn't expect a major upgrade soon. On the other hand, upgrading from PC2100 266MHz memory to PC2700 333MHz should be viable (already done for the comparable M60), and the video upgrades to Go5200 or Go5650 128MB look reasonable as well. Further, although the
business sector dislikes frequent changes, D800 is almost a year old; thus a minor upgrade to D805 (as stipulated in my earlier posts) looks likely, especially with Dothan coming in April or May.
I would welcome any comments/suggestions/corrections on those conclusions.
Let me add some personal info. I've switched to notebooks ten years ago, and my latest two laptops came from Dell. I'm quite happy with my Latitude C840 bought in July '02 (P4-M 2GHz, 768MB, 15" UltraSharp UXGA 1600*1200, GeForce4 440 Go 64MB, HDD 60GB 5400 RPM). However, it turned out recently that I can get another notebook from my research grant which expires at the end of June. Another local constraint is that I must go through the "business-user" sector of vendors such as Dell, HP or Toshiba; personally, I'd like to stick to Dell, and this means that I must choose a Latitude (since Inspirons are not offered to business users). Hence my interest in possible improvements on D800; without these constraints, I would probably choose 8600 right now.