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Verizon May Begin Selling Netbooks

The move would let the carrier cash in on the red-hot netbook market and keep pace with rival AT&T.
Verizon Wireless may start selling subsidized netbooks with two-year data plans next quarter, according to media reports Friday.

The move would enable the carrier to cash in on the red-hot netbook market, which is finding increased popularity even as overall consumer spending dips. Any offering would also put Verizon on par with rival AT&T, which teamed with RadioShack to offer an Acer Aspire One mini-laptop for $99 with a two-year contract for AT&T's mobile broadband service.

"They certainly don't want to cede any ground to AT&T, and they'll do whatever they have to do, certainly within economic reason, to match AT&T's offerings," Christopher King, analyst at Stifel Nicolaus & Co., told Bloomberg.

Verizon is reportedly in talks with multiple netbook manufacturers, but pricing, models, and plan details aren't yet complete. While the mobile operators still make the majority of their revenue on voice services, mobile data is seen as the next big area of growth.

But it's unclear how big consumer demand is for netbooks with 3G connections because of costs and data limitations. The subsidy may not be that appealing because it requires a $60 monthly data plan for two years, and these mini-notebooks can be purchased for less than $400 outright. Additionally, all the major carriers have a mobile data limit of about 5 GB, and users who exceed that can face shockingly high bills.

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).