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AT&T Brings Cell Business Model to Netbooks

Netbooks

Just days after Verizon said it was getting into the netbook business, AT&T announced its own plans to capitalize on the netbook craze -- treating the tiny notebook PCs like they're cell phones.

AT&T said today that it would adopt the business model that served the mobile phone industry so well -- subsidizing the cost of the hardware by tying users to the service for two years. It's starting with a trial rollout of netbook promotions in Atlanta and Philadelphia.

Customers will be able to choose between the Acer Aspire One, Dell Inspiron Mini 9 and Mini 12, and LG Xenia at prices ranging from $49.99 to $249.99. Those netbooks normally range from $449.99 to $599.99.

The low price on the hardware is incumbent on the customer signing up for two years on AT&T's Internet at Home and On the Go plan, which includes AT&T DataConnect wireless access and AT&T Fast Access DSL. AT&T is offering two levels of DataConnect in the trial: a 200MB plan for $40 per month and a 5GB plan for $60 per month.

In addition to netbooks, the trial will also offer Lenovo's X200 notebook, which comes with a Core 2 Duo processor and a 12.1-inch screen, for $749.99 with Internet at Home and On the Go. The laptop is available for $849.99 with a two-year DataConnect plan only. The X200 sells for between $1,000 and $2,000, depending on configuration.

Customers will get 30 minutes of in-store technical support if they purchase qualifying data plans to get them up and running on the hardware.

"Broadband is not just about speed anymore -- it's about mobility," David Christopher, chief marketing officer for AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets, said in a statement. "We want our customers to have Internet at Home and On the Go. Pairing mini-laptops with AT&T's home, Wi-Fi, and mobile broadband offerings enables consumers to get the most from their new devices, virtually anywhere, anytime."

The miniature notebooks will come with AT&T Communication Manager preloaded to help customers manage their usage and connections. The Communication Manager will prompt customers to connect to AT&T Hot Spots when available, stores information for previously used Wi-Fi networks and can display usage notifications.

AT&T has not indicated whether the plan will go national.