Dell Mini 9 Netbook Runs Ubuntu LinuxDell's new sub-notebook, the Inspiron Mini 9 Netbook, is the latest vote of confidence for Ubuntu Linux in the desktop and mobile markets. I'm genuinely impressed with Dell's commitment to Ubuntu. But Dell can learn two key lessons from ZaReason, a small PC maker that specializes in Ubuntu systems.

First, Dell needs consistent branding. The Mini 9 Netbooks come with Ubuntu or Windows. That's fine. Competitive choice is good for businesses and consumers. However, the Mini 9 Netbook keyboard has that annoying Windows key/logo, according to the pictures I've seen. Does Dell have any plans for an Ubuntu key for those of us who choose the Linux operating system?

Ubuntu Linux Keyboard from ZaReasonThat sounds like a nitpick request. But over at ZAReason, the company lobbied Canonical hard to ensure ZaReason keyboards could include an Ubuntu logo (pictured at left). That's smart branding and Ubuntu fanatics praise ZaReason for the move. Remember: Big companies like Apple and small innovators like ZaReason thrive because they focus on the small details. It's time for Dell to do the same.

Second, Dell needs to be more timely with its Ubuntu refreshes. The moment Canonical gives a new Ubuntu release the green light, ZaReason typically is standing by to ship systems preloaded with the new operating system.

The same can't be said for Dell. The company waited several months before preloading the Ubuntu 8.04 release because of extensive product testing. Somehow, Dell must strike a careful balance: Continue testing Ubuntu refreshes internally in order to minimize or eliminate issues with new operating systems, but also stay timely in order to compete with smaller, faster-moving Ubuntu system vendors.

Admittedly, I'm splitting hairs. Dell's decision to offer Ubuntu on its Mini 9 Netbook is the latest watershed event for anyone seeking mobile, affordable alternatives to Microsoft's bloated options.

And the progress doesn't end here. Ubuntu NetBooks should be available from all major retailers later this year, Canonical has predicted.