Verizon to start selling netbooks

March 29, 2009

Verizon has confirmed that it has near-term plans to sell netbook computers in addition to telephones. The small computers will be 3G enabled, giving them ready access to the Internet.

Verizon will not be the first cell phone service provider into the netbook fray. AT&T is already selling Acer netbooks with service through Radio Shack and Dell Mini Inspirion netbooks through the AT&T Web site. Rumors have been circulating that Verizon would get into the wireless netbook business if for no other reason than to keep up with AT&T.

Verizon spokeswoman Brenda Raney confirmed Saturday that the company plans to start selling 3G-enabled netbooks by the end of the second quarter, which would be June 2009. Raney was not forthcoming about exactly which netbook or netbooks would be sold, or at what price levels. It may be assumed that the netbooks will come with a contract to use Verizon 3G network services.

The parent company of Verizon, Vodafone of Great Britain, has had a deal in place to sell Dell netbooks in Europe since September of 2008, according to a CNET story. Hewlett-Packard has also been mentioned as a possible partner for Verizon because of previous dealings between the two. It is obviously not possible at this point to rule out any netbook manufacturer as a potential Verizon Partner.

It seems likely that competitive pressures will require Verizon’s pricing plans to be similar to those being used by AT&T. The Acer being sold though Radio Shack is priced at $99 with a contract for AT&T 3G wireless services. That is the confirmed price for the Dell Mini Inspirion to be sold through the AT&T Web site, which will also require a two-year 3G wireless service contract.

Netbooks at a discount in exchange for a wireless service plan contract seem like a logical next step for wireless service providers. The Apple iPhone and several other smartphones are nothing more or less than computers that happen to include cellular phones. A glance at the Apple App Store confirms the impression that the iPhone is much more than a cellphone, just as the iPod Touch is much more than just an MP3 player. They might, instead, both be the leading edge of the totally mobile computing of the future.

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