Verizon to Begin Hawking HP Netbooks

Verizon HP Mini 1151NR
The HP Mini 1151NR, soon to be offered from Verizon Wireless.
Source: Verizon

Verizon Wireless said today that it plans to begin selling an HP netbook as soon as this weekend, offering discounts on the PC in connection with a two-year contract.

As a result, the HP Mini 1151NR will hit Verizon Wireless stores on Sunday and will carry a $199.99 price — after a $50 mail-in rebate and signing a contract for a two-year 3G wireless plan.

Verizon’s Mobile Broadband plans begin at $39.99 per month.

Verizon’s move to sell netbooks — ultra-light, low-cost laptops that focus on Internet access and light application use — is in step with the competition. Through RadioShack, AT&T (NYSE:T) sells Acer Netbooks for $99 with a two-year, $60-per-month mobile broadband service contract . AT&T also sells the Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) Mini Inspiron through its Web site.

Netbooks are seen by carriers as a way to expand their customer base and grow revenue, since the mini-laptops are typically bundled with long-term data plans and other fees.

In an effort to sweeten the deal for its wireless broadband and new netbook customers, Verizon also announced new pricing plans. The company said it will automatically increase the data allowance fivefold for customers using its lowest priced monthly plan and it introduced new pricing for its Mobile Broadband Connect service.

What this boils down to is users will get 250 MB of data per month for $39.99, as opposed to 50 MB of data downloads per month, with overuse charges reduced to $0.10 per megabyte instead of $0.25. A $59.99-per-month plan retains its maximum offer of 5GB of data per month, but now the overuse charge is $0.05 per megabyte instead of $0.25.

Verizon is also offering a Mobile Broadband DayPass priced at $15, which allows users to access the Internet for 24 hours. It’s available for those who already have a Verizon-certified device and who lack a monthly plan.

The news comes at a time when low-cost netbooks are having a huge effect on the computer industry. With retail costs for the tiny laptops as low as just $250, sales have been brisk compared to far more expensive systems.

As a result, the number of netbooks shipped this year is expected to double, to 20 million, according to IDC — a figure that means netbooks will represent 15 percent of all portable PC shipments.

Also, new reports circulated last month that Apple may enter the netbook market — a persistent, if often-dismissed rumor.

Meanwhile, though netbook sales may be on the rise, the low-cost units eat into PC makers’ margins. Smartphones, despite being another one of the sector’s few current hits, are also a double-edged sword: They’re widely seen as having the capability to nibble away at PC makers’ profits as they become more like mobile computers.

Already, PC makers are showing signs of suffering from the recession, with double-digit price drops –14 percent on average in fourth quarter of last year, according to IDC.

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