Would You Buy a Mini-Notebook from Your Wireless Carrier?

A couple of days ago, we interviewed Henry Kwan of ECS about the G10IL, who told us that, outside of the U.S., his company’s new mini-notebook will be sold by wireless carriers with mobile broadband in much the same way they sell phones with voice plans. Sign a long-term contract for wireless Internet and get your mini-notebook at a much lower price or even for free. Today, our buddy James Kendrick of jkontherun has posted about a wireless provider in Japan that is giving away an Eee PC (we’re not sure which model, but it looks like a 7-inch unit) with external wireless modem for less than $1 in exchange for signing a two-year contract for wireless broadband service. This leads us to an obvious question: would wireless-carrier-subsidized mini-notebooks sell in the U.S.? Honestly, we don’t think the notebook subsidy model would fly in the U.S. and we’re not sure why consumers in other countries would want this either. Here’s why: Mobile broadband appeals to businesses, but mini-notebooks don’t. With high prices and slow connection speeds relative to wired broadband, consumers aren’t going to be rushing out to ditch their DSL or Cable connections for mobile broadband anytime soon. To add insult to injury, many carriers place severe restrictions on how you can use your mobile broadband connection, restricting users from gaming or downloading video. So the only people who would want or need mobile broadband are professionals who absolutely must be connected at all times from all places for work. That kind of mobile businessperson is going to carry a full-fledged business notebook, not an Eee PC. Also, in the case of all but the smallest businesses, laptops are provided by a company’s IT department, and there’s just no way an IT manager is going to outfit the company sales manager with a mini-notebook. Imagine getting notebook tech support from your wireless carrier. It’s hard enough to get support from the company that manufactures your laptop. Now just imagine yourself buying a Sprint or Verizon Wireless notebook and being asked to go through the wireless carrier’s voicemail system to get help when you’re getting the blue screen of death on your notebook. And do you think the major carriers want to provide notebook tech support? The cost of the hardware doesn’t justify the expense of the service. When consumers look in the mirror, they want to know that they they’re not throwing good money out for bad. Spending $60 a month—or $1,200 over two years—just to get mobile Internet on a $400 mini-notebook is hard to justify. That’s like getting a free Yugo in exchange for promising to fill it up only with super-high-octane gas. We think most mobile broadband users would rather that carriers cut the price of their service than give away mini-notebooks as incentive. But we could be totally wrong here. What do you think?

Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
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  1. CJ Says:

    I agree with your comment about support, but disagree with all other assessment. The consumer is not paying $1200 over a two year installment period for a $400 mini laptop. They are getting 2 years worth of wireless broadband service for $1200 and a free mini laptop thrown in. They can either use their own laptop with the broadband service and hand down the mini to the kids – a perfect gift idea, or the mini may be just the right amount of computing power for a lot of road warriors who don’t want to lug 9 lbs of laptop, 6 lbs of accessories, a big bag and tons of cables. I think it’s well worth pursuing.

  2. James Killbery Says:

    the assumption that the mobile professional who needs to be connected at all times would use/need/prefer a full blown laptop is unwarrented. what they need is access to their data, securely , wherever they are, preferably with out any technology at all! do it is the challenge facing us IT managers to deliver a solution that is as minimal as possible. mini laptop are possible a solution, with all the data and app tucked saftely behinf the firewall. two year free wireless broadband might be the incentive to buy a min laptop for $1200

  3. JW Says:

    When I travel for work I will take the 17″ heavy Laptop I’ve been issued. However, when I travel for pleasure I DO NOT want to carry that Mammoth piece of equipment with me I rather have something far easier to manage. For the last two years I’ve logged 10s of thousands of airline miles and I just get tired of traveling with that big monkey. Furthermore, a majority of stateside Airports no longer provide free Wireless Internet (CLT, ORD, DFW, HOB, ATL, JFK, etc.) and after purchasing the easy $10 for 24 hours wireless connections that you only use maybe 3 hours I begin to get irritated. A small light computer that can access the internet from mostly anywhere I go sounds awesome. Yes, you can get a cell phone but I find the small keyboards and screen annoying. By the way those cell phones cost more than some mini laptops I’ve seen and you will pay more for the voice and data service.

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