Subsidized Laptops With Locked In Wireless Broadband Contracts

from the good-or-bad? dept

A few years back, after noting the trend of laptop companies to start building in cellular data modems into their laptops, we wondered when it would reach the stage where mobile operators would subsidize the cost of a laptop, just as they subsidize the cost of mobile phones in many cases. In early 2006, we started to see such subsidized laptops go on sale in Europe, with the mobile operators selling the laptops directly for well below list price, as long as you bought into a long term data plan. The whole idea seemed a bit strange, as mobile operators have long ranted long and hard about how much they hate, hate, hate subsidies, and how they wish they could do away with them. So, why add them to laptops?

However, the idea has now traveled over to the US as well, in a deal between Acer, Radio Shack and AT&T allowing people to buy an Acer netbook for just $100, so long as they agree to a 2 year $60/month contract for an AT&T mobile data plan. It's still a little confusing as to why the mobile operators are agreeing to this, following so many vehement arguments against mobile phone subsidies, but perhaps they're finally realizing that those subsidies aren't such a bad thing when they get people using their services. Still, how long will it be until buyers start complaining about early termination fees for laptops like they do for mobile phones?

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  1. identicon
    Paul Brinker, 17 Dec 2008 @ 8:05am

    I connect my Cell Phone to my laptop all the time, hit a button and have internet connection sharing, its slow but its enough to log on to a video game and say hi. This costs me 15 or 10 a month on sprint.

    When I was buying my new laptop I asked sprint if I could have a built in card and pay some small fee to tie it to my account, but thay come back at me with a crazy high cost (40-60ish) instead of the 10-15 I pay for my phone that acts just like a wireless card.

    Ultimatly I set my phone to connect to my computer via bluetooth when ever its in range which is MUCH cheaper then a data card.

    The only way this system above could work is if the laptop was a mid-high end system, like a gamers laptop and the connect fee was low, or a one time charge.

    Any cell phone rep out there, I would gladly pay 200 - 300 to have unlimited data on my laptop for several years.

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