We've wondered before why mobile operators say they hate the subsidies they pay to discount handset prices, but then expand their use of them to include laptops and netbooks
. The trend looks like it's here to stay, as Verizon Wireless has now confirmed it will start selling 3G-equipped netbooks
by the end of June, so now, in addition to tying yourself into a 2-year contract where you're paying back the cost of your cell phone, you'll soon be able to tie yourself into a long-term data-service contract to pay back the price of a laptop, too. Of course, once that contract's up, the device will still be locked to the operator from which you bought it, making it difficult (or impossible) to take your business elsewhere. Meanwhile, business is flowing the other direction, too: Dell is reportedly looking to set up a virtual operator in Japan
, selling its customers network access on another operator's mobile network to use with their mobile-equipped laptops. It's an interesting contrast in models, because it's unlikely Dell will subsidize the hardware like the operators. Part of the issue with handset subsidies is that consumers are used to paying the lower subsidized prices, and so any change that raises prices will be met with disdain. But people aren't used to the benefit of subsidies for their PCs, so may be more open to paying a higher upfront cost for the hardware if it means they don't have to sign a long-term contract with a high monthly service charge.