AT&T said Tuesday it would be pushing forward with its plan to sell subsidized netbooks with a data contracts.
The company has long had success offering discounted cell phones or smartphones with a two-year contract, and it is moving that business plan forward with mini laptops, which are also called netbooks. The carrier offered $50 Acer Aspire One computers in trial markets for users who signed a contract for home DSL and 3G data connections.
AT&T said the trial markets were very successful, and it would be rolling out subsidized Dell, Acer, and Lenovo netbooks across the country this summer. Pricing details and netbook models will be announced later, but customers will likely have to pay for monthly 3G service and subscription fees start at about $60 a month.
"Sleek, mobile and fast is all the rage and we're going to answer the call with a lineup of the hottest mini laptops in the market," said David Christopher, chief marketing officer for AT&T, in a statement. "Pairing these laptops with AT&T's home broadband, Wi-Fi, and the nation's fastest 3G network enables consumers and small business customers to get the most from their new devices – at home, in the office and on the go."
Netbooks have been the hottest-growing segment of the computer market due to their low price, and ability to handle standard tasks like e-mail, word processing, and surfing the Web. AT&T isn't the only carrier looking to tap into the netbook momentum, as Verizon Wireless will be offering a discounted HP Mini for users who sign up for mobile data.
It's still unclear if the subsidized netbook model will be highly successful in luring a large number of new mobile data subscribers. Data limitations may become a bigger issue as well, as most of the major carriers cap their mobile broadband users at 5 GB per month. An Oklahoma woman is suing AT&T for overages she deems excessive for exceeding her monthly data cap.
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, and it can be downloaded here (registration required).