Dell now selling XP Home ultralight laptop

Venerable OS returns to Dell in $399 Inspiron Mini 9

Dell Inc. today started selling a mininotebook with Microsoft Corp.'s Windows XP Home preinstalled, the first time that the world's largest computer maker has had a PC to sell with that operating system since Microsoft retired XP from general service in June.

The 2.28-lb. Inspiron Mini 9 starts at $399 when equipped with XP Home, and sports an 8.9-in. display, 512MB of memory and an 8GB solid-state drive (SSD) composed of flash RAM and 802.11g wireless capability. A pricier $499 configuration boosts memory to 1GB and the SSD to 16GB.

Dell is also selling a $349 model with 512MB of memory and a 4GB SSD that comes with Ubuntu, a popular Linux distribution, in place of Windows XP.

All Mini 9 configurations are powered by a 1.6-GHz Atom processor that Intel Corp. debuted in early June.

The Inspiron Mini 9 is Dell's first system to pack Windows XP Home since June, when the computer maker yanked the operating system from its lines. Microsoft had set June 30 as the retirement deadline for Windows XP -- it would stop shipping copies to large computer manufacturers and cease selling to retail -- and Dell complied by ending sales on June 26.

However, in early April, Microsoft announced that it would let makers of small, inexpensive laptops -- which it labeled as ULCPCs, short for ultralow-cost PCs, a name that never stuck -- install XP Home through June 2010, possibly longer.

At the time, Microsoft maintained that it offered the loophole not to stymie Linux, which was the only available operating system for the tiny, cheap computer, but because users and hardware vendors alike had demanded XP.

"One thing we've heard loud and clear, from both our customers and our partners, is the desire for Windows on this new class of devices," said Michael Dix, general manager of Windows client product management, in a Q&A posted on Microsoft's Web site.

Dell and other big-brand computer sellers, including Hewlett-Packard Co. and Lenovo Group Ltd., have continued to preinstall Windows XP Professional on business-oriented machines by taking advantage of Windows Vista's downgrade rights. According to data from PC metrics vendor Devil Mountain Software Inc., a third of new PCs are downgraded from Vista to XP Professional, either at the factory or by users after they buy.

The Inspiron Mini 9 can be purchased from Dell's online store. Dell is also running a special beginning Friday for U.S. customers only; people who purchase a Studio 15, XPS M1530 or XPS M1330 laptop through early Tuesday, Sept. 9, can also buy a Mini 9 for $99.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

Shop Tech Products at Amazon