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Dell's Mini 12 now available to order, should ship sometime in December

Dell is now taking order for the Mini 12, essentially a Netbook in a slightly bigger case.

We've been following the tale of Dell's quasi-Netbook, the Mini 12, for some time now -- from its first behind-closed-doors appearance over the Summer to the official late-October announcement, with actual availability and price TBA, as they say.

Dell was closed-mouthed as recently as a few days ago when we asked when the system would be available for order and, more importantly, when it would be shipping.

Dell is now taking orders for the Mini 12, essentially a Netbook in a slightly bigger case, on its Web site, with an estimated ship date of December 8 -- a little later than we had expected, but still in time for the holidays.

The Mini 12 starts at $549 for a 1.3GHz Intel Atom CPU, 1GB of RAM, and a 40GB hard drive (no solid state options are available), and you can upgrade the HDD to 60GB or 80GB, as well a bumping up the CPU to the slightly faster 1.6GHz version of the Atom.

We've heard some grumbling that the only OS available is Vista Basic, which based on early reports, doesn't run too smoothly (especially with 1GB of RAM as your only memory option). Windows XP has been promised as an option, and hopefully we'll see that soon.