We've seen netbooks bundled with a cellular data service contract popping up in other parts of the world, but a report today by the WSJ finds HP considering the same tactic here in the US, where it hasn't been done effectively yet. This would let you buy a Mini 1000 or any other HP netbook at a steep (hopefully), smartphone-esque discount on carriers that may include AT&T and Verizon. HP is mum on exactly which carriers they're talking to, but those two were mentioned as possible candidates. HP hopes to quadruple their netbook sales to 40 million by 2012 with this plan, so hopefully the subsidy will knock enough off the price to make it worthwhile. Netbooks are mass-market now, but the overlap with people who already pay for a 3G data plan on their phone and want to just tether it will be one issue to surmount. [WSJ]
It's a great idea in principle, but for me, the issue would be the monthly cost. At $60-80/month [depending on carrier] for unlimited data plans via 3G cards for laptops, even if the netbook was free, the contract I would be stuck in for 2 years would cost about $2,000.
I think the issue is target audience; netbooks are intended for people for casual internet use. $60-80/month is too expensive for me for just casual use. If I REALLY need the internet on-the-go that much, I would probably be needing a laptop that can do more multi-tasking with better performance.
I think the kind of people who pay $60-80/month either have the money [in which case why not a MacBook Air or ThinkPad X301 or Latitude E4200] or the need for heavy on-the-go usage, which usually means they have a company paying for it [and probably a laptop as well].