We've known for some time that Verizon was going to start offering a subsidized netbook at some point, and all indicators are that "some point" is May 17th. Several sites are reporting this date, with The Boy Genius Report leading the way. Following that post, the story made the usual rounds, with cnet and Engadget among those commenting.
Let's assume the rumors and leaks have it right. To recap, the netbook is an HP Mini 1151NR, and Verizon is selling it for $199 (after a $50 mail-in rebate) if you sign a contract for a 2-year data plan, estimated to cost $40-$60/month, or for $299 after rebate if you sign up for a 1-year data plan contract.
The big question of course: is this a good deal? Boy Genius says yes, suggesting the cost of the data plan is a wash and that a comparable netbook would cost you $450 - $550, depending on whether you bought one with an integrated data card or added that separately. Cnet says it's a bum deal; that you're saving only $100 on the netbook and that isn't enough incentive to lock yourself in. Engadget also thinks this is a bad deal; they figure you're saving $200 on the netbook, but they'd rather get a deal on a USB 3G card that they can use on all their machines.
Signing a two year contract for a netbook and data plan today, when both technologies are moving forward so rapidly, does seem a bit unwise to me. It isn't like Verizon is going to happily let you out of your contract (well, they're happy enough to do it after charging you an extravagant fee). Are you going to be pining for a new model netbook after a year? Is your data plan going to feel like a total rip-off by then? I think the answer to both questions is quite possibly, yes. I'd be happier if the deal was for a netbook and a separate 3G card, myself. Then if I wanted to upgrade my netbook, or just decided that netbooks were a passing fad, I could still use the card. Verizon is pitching the integrated 3G modem on the 1151NR as a feature, but I feel like in this case it's a detriment.
Is anyone thinking of taking Verizon up on this offer? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts!