After a series of limited in-store trials that begun last month, AT&T has taken the plunge and announced a full-on netbook push. The company plans to sell netbooks from the likes of Dell, Acer, and Lenovo in with built-in 3G network capability its more than 2,000 retail stores, starting this summer.
AT&T announced the plan in a press release on its Web site that claims that the netbooks will be “ideal” for customers like tweens, teens, and students, and “convenient” for adults and small business owners. AT&T executive Ralph de la Vega is quoted in the press release stating that customer response in the Atlanta and Philadelphia test markets has been good and that a wide range of demographics are interested in the 3G-enabled netbook offerings.
The line between so-called smartphones and conventional computers continues to blur, but choosing to sell netbooks — especially in this current market — could wind up being a bad decision. AT&T already sells 3G USB dongles in its stores, and the margin on those has to be higher than what it can make off selling Acer netbook. After all, a netbook is not going to replace a customer’s “real” laptop; it’s often a secondary machine, and in this case one with expensive 3G networking hardware embedded inside.
As cell phones get more powerful, dedicated “computers” are going to get left behind in favor of the computers we carry around in our pockets. But all is not lost — after all, AT&T could create some kind of desktop-based calling application that, paired with a Bluetooth headset, would make the union between desktop and smartphone complete.
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