AT&T is making more inroads in the emerging device space, and it’s just the beginning.
The carrier this week announced two new 3G/Wi-Fi netbooks with the new Microsoft Windows 7 operating system – the Samsung Go and the Acer Aspire One, both selling for $199 after mail-in rebate.
AT&T joins rival Verizon Wireless in the Windows 7 offerings. Last month, Verizon announced the availability of two new HP netbooks – the HP Mini 311-1037NR and the HP Mini 110-1046NR – that run Windows 7. Best Buy also is selling the Nokia Booklet 3G, which has Windows 7, with AT&T’s service.
AT&T’s Samsung Go and Acer Aspire One netbook pricing requires signing up for a two-year 200MB plan for $35 per month or a 5GB plan for $60 per month. In the future, however, AT&T expects to roll out session-based and/or prepaid pricing options, according to Glenn Lurie, president of AT&T emerging devices, resale and partnerships.
The two new devices come preloaded with AT&T’s Communication Manager 7.0, which will automatically connect users to AT&T Wi-Fi hot spots when available and the program is activated. Coming next year, however, is a gas meter-type of function, so consumers can be better informed on how much data they’re using. That’s not to say consumers don’t already have the ability to manage connections, but “we have to continue to innovate around that and make it more simplistic,” Lurie says.
The “gas meter” is a feature many network operators would like to offer, and they’re looking at different business models, says Gonzalo Bustillos, industry technical director at Microsoft, which is working with operators on that front.
As for who handles the calls to customer service about the netbooks, AT&T has a special team to handle those calls to determine if it’s a network, hardware or software issue. In-store representatives also are specifically trained.
“I think we’ve learned a lot from what we’ve done over the last year and from the iPhone model,” Lurie says, where hardware questions end up with Apple and service-related questions end up with AT&T.
John Zanni, general manager of software and services for the Microsoft Communications Sector, says research shows customers prefer to buy their netbooks through the telcos for the reduced, subsidized cost of the devices, the customer care they expect to receive and for the convenience factor.
The new netbooks will be available Nov. 22. For the holidays, AT&T also is offering the Nokia Booklet, as well as other connected devices like eReaders and portable navigation devices from Garmin and TomTom. A digital picture frame from Isabella will launch in the first quarter.