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Moving toward free laptops? AT&T cuts $150 off ThinkPad price tag: While Euro carriers fully subsidize cost of laptops, Lenovo, Ericsson team with AT&T to cut prices

AT&T Mobility, computer-maker Lenovo and infrastructure vendor L.M. Ericsson announced a teaming to knock off $150 from the price of 3G-capable laptops, with an eye toward enticing customers to mobile broadband.
The new offer encompasses three Lenovo ThinkPad SL notebooks and all notebooks in Lenovo’s T and X series.
AT&T has been providing wireless broadband in Lenovo laptops for two years, but now select laptops will feature a new, Ericsson-built mobile broadband network card sporting an AT&T 3G SIM card. With the cheaper price tag, the laptops will cost essentially the same as those without 3G wireless.
John Kampfe, spokesman for AT&T, said typically notebooks with built-in wireless broadband are more expensive, and customers tend to shy away from the higher price.
“It’s a breakthrough,” he said. “We’re taking away that piece of it and it should help in the adoption rate.”
Customers must still enroll in AT&T’s monthly DataConnect plan, but as an extra incentive, the carrier will throw in 30 days of free service with the purchase of one of the laptops. DataConnect plan prices range from $20 a month to $60 a month.
Subsidizing computers the same way many carriers subsidize phones seems to be the hot trend lately, at least globally. In fact, several operators in Europe want people to connect so badly that they are giving computers away for free.
According to a recent Current Analysis report, Europe has been offering free mini-laptops, or netbooks, with a built-in HSPA USB modem in order to get customers to sign a long-term contract. For example, T-Mobile Germany and Vodafone UK have both hopped on this trend. Vodafone offers the Dell Inspiron Mini for free with two monthly plan options: subscribers can purchase 1 GB of data for $41 per month or 3 GB of data for $49 per month. T-Mobile gives away the Acer Aspire laptop alongside an “unlimited” 5 GB standard plan for $52 a month.
On to Wi-Fi
In a separate announcement, AT&T said it is providing new data incentives to smartphone customers. Owners of the BlackBerry Bold (available Nov. 4), BlackBerry Pearl 8120 and BlackBerry 8820 can now access AT&T Wi-Fi for free.
Previously, when in Wi-Fi hot spots, AT&T wireless subscribers paid a fee to hop on to the Wi-Fi network or pay $20 per month for Wi-Fi subscriptions. AT&T said in a press release that it plans to extend this offer across other devices in the future.

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