Sprint is offering a Dell Inspiron Mini 10 netbook that costs $199 when customers subscribe to a two-year service plan to the wireless carrier's 3G data network. Customers must apply for a $100 rebate from Sprint in order to receive that pricing; the Inspiron Mini is available on Dell's own Web site starting at $299.
Sprint's new netbook sports a 10-inch diagonal screen, an Intel Atom Z520 processor, Windows Home XP SP3, a 160-GB hard drive, a built-in 1.3-megapixel Webcam as well as built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi support. It weighs in at 2.6 pounds and is just a hair thicker than 1 inch.
The Sprint offering is a "deal" for the hardware: The identical system costs $349 through Dell directly. Sprint's broadband plan comes with 5 GB of data for $60 a month. The machine features embedded EV-DO Rev, which Sprint says offers data rates and system capacity that lets users send and receive large amounts of data at broadband speeds comparable to DSL.
The system seems like a good fit for students who need connectivity at a reasonable price. Enterprising VARs in the mobility space might strike a deal with Dell and Sprint to offer the netbook systems to higher-education customers. Some observers, however, are critical of the broadband access being built into the netbook rather than via a broadband card. A card would make the service portable and would allow other computers to share the service. Reportedly, Sprint is promoting its Ready Now service at its stores, with trained retail associates who work with customers to set up the Dell Inspiron Mini 10 and demonstrate the product.