Inspiron Mini 12 falls to $499, gets Linux and Windows XP

Barely more than a month after introducing the Inspiron Mini 12 at $549, Dell has started offering a cheaper model and revised its operating system choices. The cheapest Mini 12 flavor now costs just $499, and it comes with a copy of Canonical's Ubuntu Linux 8.04.1. (Apparently, Dell hasn't made the jump to 8.10 just yet).

Shoppers still have to cough up at least $549 to get a Mini 12 with Windows, but now, they're getting Windows XP by default. Vista remains only as a free upgrade from XP in the customization section. That's a dramatic change compared to last month, when (as far as we could tell) Dell offered only Vista Home Basic with this system.

XP's more prominent placement strikes us as sensible, though. Dell still limits the Mini 12's maximum RAM capacity to 1GB, which can feel a teensy bit too tight with Vista. The limitation looks like an artifact of the Mini 12's Z-series Atom processors and assorted Poulsbo chipset, which Intel targets more toward MIDs than overgrown netbooks. Dell may have picked this platform to keep power consumption in check despite the 12.1" display, although the memory limitation probably helps Dell to avoid cannibalizing sales of more full-featured laptops, too.

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