Mobile operators are increasingly looking to sell non-phone devices like laptops and netbooks
with embedded or add-on wireless modems as a way to boost their subscriber figures and generate extra income. Typically, consumers buy the device at a discounted upfront cost, then get tied in to a long-term contract for monthly data service (2 years at $60 per month seems to be the norm in the US). If users quit paying their bills, in theory, they've gotten a laptop on the cheap, though of course they're still subject to the terms of the contract, and damage to their credit, and so on. But Ericsson, which makes a lot of the embedded modems, has announced some new technology it's calling a "kill pill" that allows mobile operators to remotely lock a laptop
by sending a signal to it over their network. The company says it's ideal if a data user quits paying their bills, but it's not hard to imagine mobile operators coming up with more nefarious uses for the device -- like shutting a machine down if a user closes their account, even if they've fulfilled their contract.