Dell mini-notebook offers Linux for a premium

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Dell mini-notebook offers Linux for a premium

Round Rock (TX) – Dell today announced its first mini-notebook that squarely aims for a market that has been created by products such as the OLPC or Asus’ EeePC. It comes in a stylish package with an 8.9” screen and Windows and Linux options. But while Dell has decides to join its rivals on the mini-notebook train, it found that calling this device a “netbook” would not be a good idea.    

 

The new Inspiron Mini 9 has finally arrived and falls right into the $350-$400 system category we have seen developing over the past year. If you have followed these devices, there are very few surprises: There is an 8.9” LED display with a 1024×600 pixel resolution, an Intel Atom N270 processor with Diamondville core , standard Wi-Fi and Windows XP and Ubuntu Linux as operating system options. Dell said that new Mini 9 weighs about 2.28 lbs.

Where Dell differs from its competition is that the company has dropped hard drive options entirely and sells the Mini 9 with flash-based solid state disk drives with 4 GB, 8 GB and 16 GB capacities. More storage space is provided online through a cooperation with Box.net, which offers 2 GB for free and up to 25 GB. There was no information on pricing, but Box.net currently offers 15 GB storage for $20 per month.

Prices start at $349 for a Linux Mini 9 with 4 GB storage space and 1 GB memory and top out at $484 for a Windows XP version with a 16 GB SSD. However, the pricing may be deceiving as the Linux version is slightly more expensive than the Windows XP model when brought up to the same hardware. Dell charges extra for a white color ($25), a webcam ($10 or $25), the 1 GB memory upgrade ($25) and the 16 GB SSD ($75), which means that the Linux notebook can cost $519 – or about $35 more than the comparable XP model.

It is somewhat apparent that Dell avoids calling the Mini 9 a “netbook” at any cost.  There are three product descriptions in the press release, calling it an “Internet buddy”, a “small, easy-to-carry device” and “Internet companion”, but other than its competitors, Dell does not call the device a “netbook”, a marketing term that is primarily promoted by Intel. We checked back with Dell spokeswoman Anne Camden, who told us that Dell believes that calling the device a “netbook” may raise false expectations – expectations that this device is a replacement for a “notebook”, which it is not.

Makes sense to us. But we have to say that “Internet buddy” for what Dell calls “digital nomads” doesn’t sound great either. Any other ideas?