While Dell isn't saying which wireless carrier they're working with, John Thode, Dell's VP of small-screen consumer devices has said that Dell will announce a wireless carrier partnership soon that will get you a Mini 9 of your own for a reduced price or free for signing long-term wireless service contract.
Some publications are saying that this deal will be for a 3G contract. Nice idea, but it ignores the simple fact that the Mini 9 doesn't include any 3G hardware. What it does have is an 802.11g Wi-Fi mini-card and optional Bluetooth 2.1 capability. So, what I expect to see is a package Wi-Fi deal from a company like AT&T, T-Mobile or Sprint.
While this is a new kind of deal for a computer, it's old hat for mobile phone users. Very few of us, except for iPhone users, pay full-price for our mobile phones. With the rise of netbooks and Wi-Fi becoming a business necessity the only real surprise is that it took this long for someone to see the possibilities for a PC vendor/Wi-Fi carrier partnership.
If this deal works, and I think that it will, you can expect to see everyone else in the mini-notebook field jumping abroad. This won't last for long though because I think Mobile WiMax will be arriving soon and similar Mobile WiMax/mini-notebook deals will sweep over the Wi-Fi partnerships.
And, here's a thought for you. Guess which software company is deeply involved with bringing Sprint's national Mobile WiMax network into existence? The answer is Google. So, what would you say to a 'free' mini-notebook running Linux and connecting to Google applications at 70Mbps in city-wide Mobile WiMax hotspots using Chrome? It sounds really sweet doesn't it?
As for me, I'm not going to wait that long. You can order an Inspiron Mini 9 now and so I'm ordering my Ubuntu-powered one today.