Is there a subsidized netbook in your future?

True to words spoken by Dell CEO Michael Dell last week, Dell's newly launched Inspiron Mini 9 will soon be bundled with Vodafone's mobile broadband services in parts of Europe. Could a certain US wireless carrier be next?

Retail availability through Vodafone "in key European markets" of Dell's Inspiron Mini 9 -- launched just yesterday -- is scheduled for late September, according to a statement from the two new partners. The Minis will be sold through Vodafone's online sales outlets and brick-and-mortar stores, and will be bundled with mobile broadband.

The deal echoes earlier predictions -- though not too much earlier -- by CEO Michael Dell at the Citigroup Technology Conference last week, saying that telcos might start subsidizing ultra-portable PCs and netbooks, much as they already help to pay for cell phones. Mr. Dell said he expects netbooks will ultimately be resold by wireless carriers along with 3G services.


The Windows XP Home Edition of Dell's first Mini device is already available direct from Dell in the US, Canada, and Japan, as well as in some European countries, with an Ubuntu Linux version slated to follow.

With the new Mini 9, Dell is stepping into the netbook market later than competitors such as Acer and HP, though it now appears as though negotiations with telcos for subsidized resale could be one big reason why.

Will the industry now see any similar deals by Dell in the US market? If so, Verizon Wireless -- which is co-owned by Vodafone and US telco Verizon -- might be one likely candidate.

In a separate price promotion from Dell, through 6:00 am on September 9, US customers can get the Mini 9 -- which otherwise lists starting at $399 for the Windows-based edition -- direct from Dell for only $99 if they also purchase a Studio 15, XPS M1530, or XPS M1330 laptop.

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