Sprint Netbook Isn't The Deal It May Seem

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Sprint is out today with its first netbook, a Dell Inspiron Mini 10-inch model that sells for $199.99, but isn't quite the deal it seems to be.

  • First, customers must sign-up for a two-year 5GB monthly data plan at $59.99-a-month to get the discount.
  • Second, the $199.99 price is after a $100 mail-in rebate, so the up-front cost is $299. Which is what Dell sells the Mini 10 for on its Web site.
  • Third, because the broadband modem is embedded in the netbook, you can't move the service from one computer for another.

Thus, customers end up with a powerful, if pricey, Internet connection permanently tied to an under-powered portable computer. And don't forget to apply for the rebate.

This "deal" is also only available in Minneapolis-St. Paul, according to published reports. You may or may not (if you're lucky) find it on the Sprint site after you enter your local ZIP code.

AT&T and Verizon already offer netbooks, including a Dell in AT&T's case. Sprint's entry seems to be a test-marketing program that may or may not expand based on customer acceptance.

I realize this may be tilting at windmills, but I oppose the bundling of discounted netbooks with wireless broadband contracts. I also oppose handset subsidies. Both practices are bad for consumers. Better to have phones that can move from one carrier to another, as the customer desires.

In this case, a better deal is to take advantage of discounts on carrier-provided broadband card that can move from computer-to-computer or to choose the Mi-Fi portable access point, which can distribute the broadband connection to as many as five Wi-Fi-equipped computers.

David Coursey tweets as @techinciter and can be contacted via his Web site.

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