2008 Year in Review: Netbooks and 3G dongles drive mobile broadband

To the surprise of many within the cellular industry, the packaging of mobile broadband with the new breed of miniature laptops--or Netbooks--and 3G dongles proved to be highly desirable from both business users and the consumer in the latter half of this year.

Evidence of this was provided by Carphone Warehouse, claiming in October that it was selling one in every 10 connected laptops in the UK, with the promise to extend its range to include Apple Macbooks and a variety of Sony Vaio devices.

As laptop makers struggled to meet this demand for the new Netbooks, operators and retailers added fuel to this raging fire by announcing 'free' laptop bundles starting at around €30 a month. The analyst firms Gartner and IDC both issued reports stating the sale of these laptop bundles had significantly contributed to a surge in the overall number of laptops shipped into Europe in the third quarter.

These marketing initiatives led to both Orange and T-Mobile experiencing Netbook supply problems and new manufacturers were able to secure contracts with these and other operators for Netbooks, some of which now included integrated 3G data modems.

Significance: Packaging and pricing a service correctly can produce significant results. The likelihood is the operators and Netbook manufacturers will build on this early success during 2009, potentially threatening the viability of WiFi hotspots.

Related articles:
Demand outstrips supply for T-Mobile's 'free' laptop offer
Laptop market continues to boil, Carphone Warehouse claims 10% of market
Orange runs out of laptops, now offers free broadband deal
'Free' laptop bundles provoke huge demand