Dell Muscles Into Netbook Battle

Dell has become the latest channel vendor to enter the increasingly competitive netbook (or mini-noterbook)market. The company's new Inspiron Mini 9 sells on the company's Web site for around $400 and might eventully be headed for reseller outlets.

The pundits believe these small, fully featured, easily totable devices are catching on with mobile business users and travelers. In fact, large channel competitors such as Hewlett-Packard, Acer, Lenovo and category pioneer Asus have provided such offerings for years. There's a tradeoff for users in such netbooks among size, weight and capability, although Dell offers a pretty good compromise with a 9-inch screen, a 4GB sold state drive and a 2.3-lb. footprint.

The earlier versions of the netbook, especially, the pioneer one from Asus, are lighter and come with smaller screens, which really made them small and convenient. The latest versions are getting closer to the smallest standard, fully-featured notebooks. The real concerns for the channel is whether these netbooks are a passing fad or a true new hardware category. More importantly, are they goinjg to end up eating into vendors' traditional hardware margins, which are already under siege? Is there any margin in there for channel partners at all? Dell's latest entry may push a lot of these questions to the forefront. 


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