The Dell Inspiron Mini — while not the scrotum-smasher to the Asus Eee that we hoped — is still a capable, enticing, well-made little netbook that can go feature for feature with any of its peers. But it may actually have a leg-up on the competition in a secret hardware feature that still hasn’t been announced (or activated): built-in 3G support.
According to Dell VP John Thode, the 3G support isn’t being announced yet because Dell has yet to finalize its telecom partners. “There’s an integrated 3G radio that we’ll be annnouncing in a couple of weeks… ” he said. Great! But then he worryingly continueds: “We’ll sell [the Inspiron Mini] with telco operator channels, so [customers] won’t have to make a decision.” In short? They’re only going to unlock the functionality for customers who buy an Inspiron Mini from a cell phone contractor… and sign a two year contract along with it.
Right. What a horribly burdensome choice that would be for a consumer: an unlocked Inspiron Mini, its 3G capability capable of being yoked to any carrier of your choosing. You can pick any of a thousand options when you custom order a Dell machine, but the choice of buying a 3G Inspiron Mini unsubsidized and uncontracted, to use with our current provider? Far too onerous.
I admit: I’m jumping to a conclusion here, possibly not the correct one. But we all know how the mobile phone industry works. There’s plenty reason to be cynical.