AT&T offers $99 netbook...with a $1,400 data plan

Confirming rumors that have been swirling around tech sites for the past month, AT&T has started offering discounted laptops and netbooks with a two-year contract. AT&T's current netbook lineup includes quite the variety, with offerings from Dell, LG and Acer starting at $99 after mail-in rebate and a two- year contract. The low price is subsidized by the $40 to $60 a month data plan, in the same manner that your cell phone is cheaper with a new two-year agreement.

For the uninitiated, netbooks are compact lightweight laptops that can handle web browsing and perform common business tasks with ease. Combine these strengths with the already low prices and it's no wonder AT&T chose to offer a subsidized netbook with the ability to get online anywhere. As a netbook owner, I can certainly attest to the convenience of netbooks and the ability to get online no matter where I am, but I'm a bit leery of purchasing a netbook with a contract.

While the prospect of a $99 or $149 laptop is quite appealing, it's important to consider the true cost of the computer. For example, the Acer Aspire One which is $99 after a $100 mail-in rebate can be purchased for $350 at, but you would end up paying close to $1,400 over the two-year contract with AT&T. The other drawback is that when you sign up, you're locked into the same laptop and the same carrier for two years, which can be a challenge for technology addicts like myself.

For on the go people who need an always-available connection, this is a nice way to get a reduced price on a new netbook, just make sure you don't confuse this offer with a sale price since it will cost you quite a bit in the end. It's rumored that Verizon and other cell phone carriers will be offering similar packages later this year, so you may be able to get a better deal this summer when there's more competition.
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