Dell's Mini 12 bites the dust (but the Mini 9 is still hanging on)

Dell's 12-inch Netbook 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.

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
2 min read

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.