(The “9″ presumably refers to the screen size, which is just shy of nine inches diagonal.) Unlike HP, which aims its mini-note at the education market, Dell is pushing its Mini 9 to sophisticated mainstream consumers. Though Dell has offered systems with Linux for more than a year, some customers have complained that the systems were often expensive and difficult to find.
The latest big trend in the PC business is small, cheap laptops that double as portable Internet terminals. The once-booming U.S. Instead, they come with shrunken dimensions (screens are nine inches or less), light weight (they’re typically about two pounds), and starting prices under $500.
Of course, the companies are very much aware of the financial implications. (Apple has taken another tack so far; rather than offer compact, cheap laptops, it’s charging a premium for the slim MacBook Air.)
The Inspiron Mini 9 will have a starting price of $349 for a Linux version, and will be available in the U.S., Japan, and some European countries. market is now maturing, and pressure on margins is as intense as ever.
Though the stylish little machines are a dream come true for road warriors who have longed for more portable workstations, they will also present a vexing challenge for the PC industry. Investors dinged Dell stock last week after slim margins in the consumer business helped drive disappointing earnings numbers. A version with Windows XP will sell for $400, and the company promises a Linux version in “a few weeks” starting at $350. With the Mini 9, we’ll see if the company manages to squeeze decent profits out of small packages.
The subject has come up repeatedly in my recent chats with executives from HP , Dell , Intel and elsewhere. If lightweight laptops are in the bargain bin now, how’s a company to make a profit?
Hewlett-Packard has one. Image: Dell
8.9? glossy LED display, (1024×600)
Box.net online storage
Linux or Windows XP. And Intel Chief Financial Officer Stacy Smith notes that analysts have been peppering him with questions about the new Atom processor for low-cost mobile devices, mostly concerned with how it will impact revenues and average selling prices. The laptops use Intel’s Atom processor, have between 4 and 16 gigabytes of flash storage, and come with 2 gigabytes of free online storage from Box.net, which users will be able to expand to 25GB.
It will also test Dell’s efficiency. Generally the companies respond to the profit question by saying they must first provide what customers demand, and better margins will come later.
When the Linux version is ready, it will offer the highest-profile test yet of Dell’s recent embrace of the open-source community. These machines typically don’t have much storage space for digital files or much visual horsepower for tasks like videoconferencing. And now, Dell has one, too.
But the company making the boldest move in the mini-note arena might just be Dell, with the release Thursday of its Inspiron Mini 9. HP vice president Dan Forlenza told me his team worked hard on the design of the HP mini-note to keep costs low – the basic version comes with Linux instead of Microsoft Windows, and with 4 gigabytes of flash memory instead of a hard drive. Asus, the Taiwanese electronics maker, has one