Lenovo now is a mobile broadband provider, launching “Lenovo Mobile Access,” a no-contract 3G mobile broadband service powered by Macheen. The service is now embedded across select models of the ThinkPad product line and available immediately in the United States and nine European countries.
It might make more sense to bundle mobile broadband with a notebook than a smart phone with its own voice and mobile data service, but you can see how the logic might apply.
Lenovo Mobile Broadband allows users buy a “Time Pass” for as little as $1.95 for 30 minutes or $8.95 for one day.
Users with more frequent connectivity requirements, or who work with large media files can purchase monthly plans with 2GB or 6GB of data access, along with the option for automatic monthly renewal.
Businesses might find the pay-as-you-go options help them reduce the cost of mobile broadband connectivity at the same time that temporary access can be extended to large numbers of individual employees.
All ThinkPad laptops with embedded mobile broadband connectivity ship with Lenovo Mobile Access pre-activated as the default configuration. A single SIM is used for global access, enabling mass roll-out capabilities over a secure connection.
Web-based policy management tools let IT administrators customize permissions and access options by services or application, for the whole company, specific workgroups, or individual users. Simple payment options allow centralized, single-payer end-of-month billing for corporate arrangements.
At launch, the service is available in the United States, UK, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Austria, Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands.
For some of us, the almost-inevitable question is how long it might take for other application and device suppliers to decide to do something similar, especially once faster 4G services are widespread, to support smartphones and tablets.
One question is whether Apple, Google, Facebook or Amazon might decide it makes sense to become an MVNO. There are lots of reasons to suggest the answer is “no.” Suppliers who want wide distribution will be leery of antagonizing distribution partners by “competing with their customers.”
But some think Apple and others might someday make that decision. Apple will provide wireless service directly to its iPad and iPhone customers, argues consultant Whitey Bluestein, for example. In his hypothetical scenario, Apple first will sell data packages bundled with iPads.
Then it will sell data and international roaming plans to iPhone customers through the iTunes Store. Over time, Apple will strike wholesale deals with several mobile operators so that Apple can provide wireless service directly to its customers, as Apple Mobile, Bluestein predicts.
As “crazy” as that might sound, it might be a fairly common tack taken by any number of device, service or application providers, eventually. In fact, it fits well with the general thinking that, over time, mobile and fixed network service providers will increasingly want to sell services to third-party business partners as well as end users.
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