AT&T to require contracts for Windows 7 netbooks


DALLAS — With netbook sales continuing to soar, Dallas-based
AT&T Inc. said it will launch its first Windows 7 netbooks later this

The mini laptops running the scaled-back “Starter”
edition of Microsoft Corp.’s newest operating system will cost just $199 but
will require two-year contracts, just like a cell phone.

The machines — the Samsung Go and Acer Aspire One — have
built-in 3G wireless data capabilities to allow Internet access on AT&T’s
network in places where Wi-Fi isn’t available.

AT&T on Monday said it is offering two data plans with
the netbooks: $35 per month with a 200-megabyte monthly download limit, or $60
with a more practical 5-gigabyte limit. A two-hour downloadable movie on Apple
Inc.’s iTunes service is about 1.5 gigabytes.

Glenn Lurie, president of AT&T’s emerging devices
division, said netbooks appeal to a broad range of customers.

“The one thing that we never got the same answer on is
‘Who’s going to buy a netbook?’ ” he said. “And the reason is because
it’s everybody.”

“We’re seeing it because of the economy, (it’s) a pure
replacement for the next laptop.”

Lurie said AT&T will also eventually offer 3G netbooks
on a pay-as-you-go basis that don’t require two-year contracts, but the
tradeoff is will probably be higher prices on the computers themselves.

Market research firm DisplaySearch said last month that
netbook sales jumped 264 percent to $3.1 billion in the second quarter of 2009
from the second quarter of 2008.

That surge occurred as the average price of a netbook fell
30 percent.

Meanwhile, the rest of the laptop and portable PC market
shrank 14 percent to $23.3 billion.

Via McClatchy-Tribune News Service.