Want a free laptop, with no crazy sign-ups for Stamps.com or FreeCreditReport.com, or any other cockamamie offers to complete? Carriers are betting that you do.
There's a rumor circulating that Verizon Wireless is looking to offer a subsidized netbook bundled with a 3G wireless plan.
Last week, Engadget got an anonymous tip that Big Red and HP were partnering up on this, and now investment/finance blog The Street is throwing around names like Dell, Acer and Asus. (Dell could use a pick-me-up after its proposed cell phone was deemed "too boring" by carriers and subsequently rejected by all.)
If you believe The Street's source at Verizon, at least one netbook has passed Verizon's tests, but there's no confirmation on what the carrier will ultimately green light. So far, there are already $100 and $200 rebates on a few laptops (when bought bundled with a 3G modem and a 2-year plan at Verizon).
According to Liliiputing, the netbook sitch is interesting because industry watchers think that this could be the beginning of a trend, one that has carriers subdizing netbooks like they do with cellphones. That would actually be pretty cool for most casual users, if they could snag laptops for cheap or free with a contract (though hardcore geeks are less likely to be excited about computer hardware they can't mod or crack open at will).
Subsidies are nothing new for wireless telcos, but The Street thinks this recent battle got an uptick when AT&T decided to discount iPhones last year. With Apple handset sales more than tripling, the carrier managed to tempt customers away from the competition. And the company, which already has deals on Dell and Acer netbooks, plans to expand its lineup. Earlier this month, the carrier said it would sell netbooks for $99 through retailers like RadioShack, for customers who sign up for a two-year contract. It wouldn't surprise me if this recent rumor about Verizon's netbook plans is a direct response.
The timing is interesting. As more people flock to pre-paid phones and do away with pricey cell contracts, the carriers find a new way to lock customers in. Still, this business line makes sense on several levels. Netbooks go for, like, just $300 or so a pop, which puts them in the same cost bracket as smartphones. Thanks to its inexpensive price tag, these laptops are already popular; given economic concerns, this popularity will probably soar even higher. Add in a carrier subsidy, and it's a recipe for success.