The International Herald Tribune reports that Orange Telecom is offering a new twist on the "free hardware with two year service contract" program: a laptop computer, not a mobile phone.
The "Connected Laptop" offer includes a free laptop from Asus or Hewlett Packard, a USB modem and up to five gigabytes of downloads for £25 to £45 pounds, or $49 to $88, per month. As mobile operators start giving away devices other than cellphones, experts say, the industry is entering a new phase. It reflects market realities: people simply are not calling each other as often, so they're looking at new and exciting ways to lock in data traffic growth.
This echoes a comment I made earlier -- there are reasons other than pure price point for Apple to build an incredibly cheap netpad (to the tune of $499). They see, as AT&T does, how the wired consumer is changing before their eyes.
"...Nonetheless, this new bridge between Macs & iDevices will be only the beginning of a huge move on Apple’s part to compete aggressively on value and further diversify its offerings... expect several new products this year, along with aggressive revisions of its high-end systems like the Mac Pro & Xserve to start pulling in major large-scale projects that can help offset its aggressive margin-shrinking moves."
With cheap, internet-connected notebooks, we see a tremendous opportunity for video yellow pages. Just imagine: see a video for a hotel, and if you're interested, you're automagically connected.