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RadioShack To Offer $100 Netbook With AT&T

The offering reflects an emerging trend among wireless providers to subsidize PCs and cell phones in return for customers signing service contracts.

Acer's Mini-Laptop At Radio Shack
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Acer's Mini-Laptop At Radio Shack

RadioShack plans to start selling next week an Acer mini-laptop for $100 to customers willing to sign a two-year contract for AT&T's mobile broadband service.

The offering reflects an emerging trend among wireless providers to subsidize so-called "netbooks" much like they offer mobile phones at reduced prices in return for customers signing service contracts. Besides the Acer offering, AT&T is the exclusive service provider for Apple's iPhone, which is also sold at a discount in return for a two-year data contract.

Netbooks are typically sub-$500, lightweight systems with screen sizes 10 inches or less. RadioShack says it will become the first major U.S. retailer to offer such a system with integrated mobile broadband technology ready to be activated by a wireless provider. RadioShack is offering the Acer Aspire One laptop starting Dec. 14 for $100 with a two-year service contract from AT&T that costs $60 a month. The deal lasts through Dec. 24 and will be available through the retailer's 4,400 company-operated stores. Prices may vary outside the United States.

"Many people internationally are already enjoying the portability, on-the-go connectivity and affordability of this emerging new technology," Peter Whitsett, executive VP for merchandising at RadioShack said in a statement released late Thursday. "We are proud to introduce this concept in the U.S. by offering a netbook with integrated 3G functionality in addition to full Wi-Fi capability."

Indeed, market researcher DisplaySearch says netbook sales are bucking the slowdown in the overall PC market in part by the demand for greater mobility among people, evident by a growing number of partnerships between mini-laptop brands and telecom providers to subsidize netbooks, particularly in regions outside the United States.

Acer in the third quarter surpassed AsusTek as the top netbook maker, shipping 2.15 million units to capture a 38.3% share, according to DisplaySearch. AsusTek, which created the market late last year with the Eee PC, shipped 1.7 million units for a 30.3% share.

The Acer system that will be offered by RadioShack weighs 2.44 pounds and includes 1 GB of memory and a 160-GB hard drive. The netbook has a 9-inch LCD screen, is powered by an Intel Atom processor and comes with Microsoft's Windows XP operating system. The laptop also has a built-in memory card reader and Web cam.

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