Apple has made a bit of a maneuver to take a chunk of the netbook, ultraportable market with the release of its new MacBook Airs, particularly the brand new 11″ model. They certainly stand to make quite an impact on the niche if they manage to lure enough ultraportable lovers into paying at least 1 grand for a second-banana laptop. They’ve maintained quite the record over the past 5 years with their Mac line overall, slowly growing in market share, and while they seem poised to grow even more with the release of the new Airs (there are plenty of people out there prepared to pay a premium for Apple gear, always will be), Dell has broken onto the scene, making a particularly impressive move into the ultraportable market with their new Inspiron Duos.

If you’ve seen the teaser they’ve released, you have some idea of how impressive their new portable offering is. It starts as was looks like a typical tablet PC, with a touch screen and what seems to be running some proprietary version of Android.

But then, the screen flips open from the edge, revealing a full physical keyboard, and the screen rotates in its frame so it can line up properly with the keys, and voila, a netbook-slash-tablet. This is a particularly big deal. While pretty similar offerings have existed for some time now, Dell taking up the fight against Apple is pretty huge, especially since Apple just recently decided to talk about their Air like a happy medium between the tablet PC and the full-featured notebook. Dell may be giving them a run for their money.

The success and longevity of this new Inspiron will come right down to how well they’re made. The Air is a sturdy aluminum unibody, and it doesn’t have anything nearly as complicated as the Inspiron’s spinning screen. If the mechanism feels at all weak, or if the screen is loose and doesn’t lock into place well, consider this new line of books as good as dead. But if they can manage to make something that feels significant and like it’ll stand up to a bit of punishment, then Dell may have a winner on their hands.