AT&T to sell 3G netbooks across U.S.

AT&T said Tuesday its trial selling netbooks in company stories in a couple of cities has been successful so it will begin selling the small laptops nationwide in a few months.

The carrier will also expand its netbook lineup. Netbooks from Acer, Dell and Lenovo that have built-in AT&T 3G cards will be sold in AT&T's 2,200 stores across the U.S. starting as early as June.

People will also be able to buy the computers on AT&T's Web site.

The operator started selling netbooks, which it calls "mini laptops," in April in Atlanta and Philadelphia. A wide range of people, including teenagers, busy moms and small business owners, have been interested in them, AT&T said.

RadioShack already sells the Acer Aspire with AT&T access in many cities across the country.

Like cell phones, the netbooks from AT&T come with a discount when a customer signs a contract for wireless service. For example, in Atlanta and Philadelphia, AT&T is selling the Acer Aspire for US$99 with a contract that costs $40 or $60 a month, depending on data usage.

Netbooks have been keeping the PC market afloat, and they could help mobile operators continue to add new customers as the mobile phone market grows saturated. Researchers at IDC recently found that first-quarter worldwide netbook shipments were up sevenfold, reaching 4.5 million, compared with the same period last year. They predict netbook shipments for this year will reach 22 million.

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