10:47 PM

AT&T Revamping Retail Stores

Redesign places a stronger emphasis on the carrier's netbook offering, which include the Acer Aspire One, Dell Mini 10, and the Lenovo S10.

AT&T is embarking on a major revamp of its retail stores, placing a stronger emphasis on how handsets are tested, and expanding the carrier's netbook offerings.

One of the keystones of the redesign of more than 2,200 locations is that all wireless devices will have power-enabled displays. This means potential customers will be able to test a working iPhone, BlackBerry Bold, or Nokia Surge before making a purchasing decision.

"With these changes, all of our customers -- from consumers to small businesses - will enjoy a more personalized, educational, and interactive shopping and buying experience at our stores," said Paul Roth, AT&T president of retail sales and services, in a statement.

The move also means AT&T will be placing a stronger emphasis on its netbook offering, which include the Acer Aspire One, Dell Mini 10, and the Lenovo S10. The mobile operator offers these mini-laptops at a subsidized price in order to get consumers to sign up for a two-year mobile data plan that can cost up to $60 a month.

Cellular carriers could potentially become a major distributor of netbooks. Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel are offering aggressively priced sub-notebooks with mobile data plans.

It is unclear how much consumer demand there is for subsidized netbooks at the moment, as most of these devices can be purchased outright for less than $400. Additionally, the carriers generally have a 5 GB monthly data cap, which can lead to whopping bills if a user exceeds the data plan limit.

Netbooks and mobile broadband can be ideal ways to arm your road warriors, but there are still questions about connectivity and security. InformationWeek has written an independent report on how to equip your mobile workforce securely, and it can be downloaded here (registration required).

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