In the US, laptop makers Dell (NSDQ:DELL) and HP (NYSE:HPQ) are joining hands with Verizon (NYSE:VZ) to incorporate built-in mobile broadband connectivity to Verizons high speed wireless network. Abroad the same is happening, just between different names, writes The Stalwart. Techdirt isn't too happy about this, criticizing the fact that the computers will only be able to access the network of a single provider:
Now surely choice is always better. But while Techdirt claims Verizon isn't subsidizing the laptops, if Verizon were to provide the built in card for free then who could argue. You could always go buy a detachable card to connect to your favorite provider. But if the consumer was given the choice between a computer with a built-in "locked" mobile broadband card and one which could connect to any provider, then the choice would be obvious.
A few months back, Sony [NYSE:SNE] started selling a laptop with the functionality to connect to Cingular's EDGE network built in. We pointed out then that when people are already annoyed by the fact that their phones are generally locked to one carrier, they probably won't want their laptop tied to one too. It now looks like carriers find the idea of laptop lock-in appealing, as now Dell will sell laptops with built-in connections for Verizon Wireless' EV-DO network, while that carrier's parent, Vodafone, [NYSE:VOD] is in talks with computer manufacturers to build in access for its 3G network to their machines.
But... what if there weren't any mobile broadband networks in the US comparable to Verizon's in terms of speed, breadth, and quality? Then accessing the network would be sort of a privilege, and we'd all clamour to make sure our computer inlcuded the Verizon-capable chip. Think Intel Inside, only now Verizon Inside.
If such a scenario were to become reality even only in its weaker form; whereby we all clamor to make sure out laptops have a mobile broadband-capable chip which connects to just any provider. Then, the broadband providers should be worried. While I'm sure a newer technology would eventually come along to liberate us from Verizon, or whoevers, clutches, might the cable and dsl companies have underestimated the speed at which mobile data networks would develop? Say this dream of mine were to take five years, it'd still be worrisome for a company like Time Warner Cable which has expended so much effort in creating what it believes to be a broadband checkmate. Shiver.