This morning, HP didn’t just unveil a new netbook, the long-awaited Mini 1000; it also announced a new OS. Mobile Internet Experience (HP is, understandably, loathe to say “Linux” in front of consumers) is built on top of Ubuntu, and just might be the best thing about the Mini 1000. The main screen has three columns: one for e-mail, another for Web, and a third for photos (it also has a music playback control panel). The Web column has neat visual bookmarks, a-la Google Chrome. It’s all pleasing to look at, but we do wish that you could work inside those columns. Imagine being able to check mail in one pane while scroll through photos in another. Alas, these panes are just gateways to fullscreen applications. As intuitive and non-threatening as this flavor of Linux is, it doesn’t change the fact that big-box retailers still have a track record of selling XP over Linux (or that the return rates for Linux netbooks dwarf those for XP ones). We’ll be curious to see if MIE wins over more consumers, or if more brick-and-mortar retailers pick it up. You’ll have to wait until January to get one for yourself, but until then check out our hands-on video.