It's surely little surprise that in today's current economic climate one of the fastest-growing PC markets is the so-called "free laptop".
Mobile broadband deals with "free laptops" are increasing in popularity at an impressive rate - defying all economic slumps. Back in the summer laptop-bundled mobile broadband deals were said to account for nearly 30 percent of all broadband sales. They're now due to completely overtake standalone mobile broadband sales by the end of the year.
Of course, with broadband bundles nothing's ever completely free, but mobile broadband laptop deals are a great way of bagging yourself a brand new laptop model, without a large one-off credit or debit payment. Of course, there's also the added bonus of being able to log on to the Internet while you're on the move.
Free laptop Eee PC
"You will inevitably be paying a far higher monthly subscription for a mobile broadband deal with a laptop included rather than just a USB dongle, and will probably have to sign up for a minimum of 18-months, but the laptop will be yours to keep after this time. It's this clincher that seems to be swinging the vote for new mobile broadband subscribers," says Ciaron Dunne from BroadbandGenie.co.uk.
He adds a caution that customers should be completely happy that they can keep up with repayments for the whole duration of the contract.
As we head towards Christmas though, it seems that laptop bundles are just too much of an attractive offer for a lot of mobile broadband customers to ignore. Stats show a massive boom in sales of "free laptop" mobile broadband bundles this month as families look out for ways to get thrifty with gifts.
And as research firm Point Topic suggests: "Broadband bundles have become the cheaper option for broadband customers who are looking for cost-effective broadband packages with added value services."
Currently, only a few mobile broadband operators provide free laptop offers, although it's worth checking through this list regularly to make sure you're clued up on subscription price, contract length, download speed and, of course, the free laptop model.
Orange has just entered into the mobile broadband bundle market, and with this move slashed the minimum price for a monthly subscription on a 24-month contract. Its
3 Mobile Broadband has a strong hold over mobile broadband laptop bundles with a mixture of different packages that vary in price, download limit and contract length. However, for the time being, all varieties of bundles come with an HP 550 laptop.
Vodafone too offers mobile broadband and laptop bundles, although its technique is a little different. Instead of handing over a separate USB dongle for customers to be able to connect to the internet while away from home, its mobile broadband is built-in to the computer.
You can expect to see a lot more of these offers available in the near future. In late September some of the world's biggest mobile operators, PC manufacturers and chipmakers revealed that they would join forces to pre-install high-speed mobile data services into notebook PCs. Those taking part revealed that they hoped integrated mobile broadband laptops would prove so popular it would rival the use of Wi-Fi hotspots.
Until then, basic mobile broadband laptop deals seem to be doing the trick with consumers, as a Phones 4U spokesperson recently commented: "Since launching laptop-broadband deals, we have seen significant sales growth month-on-month and predict that laptop-broadband deals will be top-sellers this Christmas."
Driven by continued buoyancy in the notebook market and the additional momentum created by the new "Mini Notebook" segment, PC shipments recorded a robust 27 percent increase in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) in the third quarter of 2008 compared with the same quarter last year, according to preliminary data released by IDC.
"Although the retail channel remained the primary route-to-market to reach consumers, mini notebook volumes were further boosted by the rising number of telco deals across several countries, enticing customers with free laptops bundled with mobile broadband, benefiting Asus and Acer in particular," said Eszter Morvay, senior research analyst for IDC's EMEA PC Tracker.
"Whilst the retail shelves were dominated by Asus in the first half of the year, the competition heated up over the summer months with Acer deploying strong push across the region. The appealing product design coupled with the right price point earned Asus and Acer a combined market share of over 80 percent in this rapidly expanding market.
"Mini notebooks are clearly shaking up the competitive landscape, which is likely to get even more fierce in the pre-Christmas season with several vendors launching products from October, and potentially pushing mini notebooks volumes in EMEA towards the 4 million range in 4Q08," Morvay added.
Fancy bagging yourself a new mobile broadband subscription with a free laptop before Christmas? In association with broadband comparison website Broadband Genie, PC Advisor has compiled a complete list of free laptop offers from the mobile networks.
This story, "Upside to a Down Economy: Free Laptops" was originally published by PC Advisor (UK).