Dell's Netbook line, creatively called the Mini, has seen a few lineup swaps recently. While most of the Netbook market has gravitated to 10-inch screens, Dell was one of only a handful of PC makers simultaneously hawking smaller 9-inch Netbooks, as well as (relatively) massive 12-inch ones. Now that 12-inch model has officially been given the boot, while the 9-inch, which had been pulled off Dell's official list of systems in June, is still available in a handful of configurations (as noted a few weeks ago by our own Sharon Vaknin).
Of the Mini 12, which never really hit its stride, Dell says on its corporate blog:
So, should you read anything into this as far as Dell's commitment to the Netbook space? Nope. It really boils down to this: for a lot of customers, 10-inch displays are the sweet spot for Netbooks. That's why we offer two different 10-inch Inspiron Netbooks for Mini 10 and the Mini 10v. And on the Latitude side, the Latitude 2100 Netbook is finding a home in schools all over the place. Portability is one of the key points for Netbook customers. Larger notebooks require a little more horsepower to be really useful. More to come from Dell on that later.
Bottom line, if you're a customer in the United States who wants a brand new Mini 9, you can order it from this link. Also, both the Mini 9 and Mini 12 are still available for U.S. customers through @DellOutlet. Click on the respective product links to see what configurations we've got on hand.
Lenovo and Samsung also have 12-inch Netbooks (and HP has the Netbook-like HP dv2, with AMD's Neo processor), but we've always felt that when a Netbook moves up to the 12-inch size, there's a psychological difference in consumers' expectations. When you have a chassis that gets closer to the look and feel of a regular dual-core laptop, you expect it to behave like a standard laptop, and the performance limitations of Netbooks are harder to overlook.
Additionally, Dell saddled its Mini 12 with Windows Vista--a kiss of death for a Netbook if there ever was one.
A good point is also made by TechCrunch's Michael Arrington, who writes that, "Dell may also be seeing customers who would otherwise buy a dual-core 13-inch or 14-inch Inspiron choosing the lower priced (and less profitable) 12 inch Netbook instead. That's something they aren't going to be happy about."
Will we see a move to bigger Netbooks in the future (11.6-inch models are starting to trickle out), or have we reached the perfect balance with the 10-inch screen? Or perhaps new developments such as Nvidia's Ion GPU and Intel's next-gen Atom processors will clear the way for a entire class of laptops of all sizes, powered by low-cost hardware. Weigh in in the comments section below.