Dell changes its Windows vs. Linux netbook strategy, plans new subsidized model

Rolled out last night at a press event in New York City, the Mini 10v "companion netbook" offers some but not all of the same features as the slightly pricier Inspiron Mini 10 "media netbook," according to DK Ray, product marketing manager.

The new Inspiron Mini 10v is the first netbook from Dell to be available for Windows and Linux simultaneously, and it won't be the last. Up to now, Dell has released the Windows XP flavors before the Ubuntu Linux editions. Going forward, though, Dell will ship all future netbooks on the same OS, Ray divulged, in a meeting with Betanews at the event.

Dell's increasing emphasis on Linux is a bit surprising, given that a number of observers lately have pointed to Windows' growing domination on netbook platforms industry-wide.

Ray also told Betanews last night that, within the next few months, a wireless carrier partner will announce plans to sell a subsidized version of the Mini 10, a fuller-featured model introduced in February with initial pricing of $349 from Dell.

But Ray wouldn't spell out whether Dell's partner on the Mini 10 would be AT&T, a company already selling different netbooks from Dell, Acer, and LG. "But it will be something like that," Betanews was told.

In comparing Dell's two latest netbooks during a demo last night, Ray referred to the TV-enhanced Mini 10 as a "media netbook," and the cheaper 10v as a PC "companion netbook." Both models come with a 120 GB or 160 GB hard drive, a touchpad, support for multiple wireless networks, and a keyboard that's ultra large for a netbook, for instance.

"But here's what you get for the extra $50," Ray elaborated. The Mini 10's sensors for multitouch gestures are absent from the 10v. So is the edge-to-edge glass in the Mini 10's display. Instead of the 10v's plastic casing, the 10 comes in magnesium, a ruggeder substance still uncommon in netbooks.

Most of the other differences revolve around video entertainment. Where the 10 is equipped for "embedded local TV," the 10v isn't. The 10 provides an HDMI port, in contrast to the 10v's VGA port.

Dell has also cut costs on the 10v by using an Intel Atom N processor in place of the 10's pricier Atom Z processor, which offers optional 720P hi-def video support plus longer battery life.

The Linux edition of the 10v ships with Ubuntu Linux 8.0.4. "We'll continue to improve with the software used on the Linux side," Ray told Betanews.

Also at the event, Dell showed off its latest laptop and desktop PC models, along with gaming gear from Alienware and "family-focused" software from Cozi.
An Alienware rep noted that the gaming hardware arm will be making a product announcement at the E3 conference next month.

Dell's software partner Cozi is now beta testing Facebook integration with its Journal "mini-blogging" feature, said Robbie Cape, CEO and co-founder, during another interview. Integration with Twitter and e-mail is likely to follow next year, Cape added.

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