Hewlett-Packard Co plans to take its laptops with cellular chipsets to market through its traditional channel partners, as well as selling them directly online, but it does not rule out partnerships with mobile operators for the same purpose.
Our current thinking is around our IT distribution channel and direct, said Matthew Wagner, senior manager of product marketing at the Palo Alto, California-based vendor. However, that’s not to say we’re ruling out deep partnerships with operators, which are key to making these products work, and we may collaborate on innovative approaches that leverage our respective strengths.
Clearly, as Wagner pointed out, these are a new type of product for operators compared to phones or PDAs, and they are more complex both to sell and support. There will also be commercial issues, as operators have traditionally subsidized mobile devices, but if they were to start doing the same for laptops, traditional IT channel partners could be miffed. That’s not to say it won’t be tried; there will be lots of experiments in the coming months and years, Wagner said.
HP has just demo’ed cellular data connectivity for the GSM world in its laptops, showing its broadband wireless business notebooks at last week’s 3GSM event in Barcelona, Spain.
The devices were fitted with chips enabling connections to 3G (W-CDMA) and 3.5G (HSDPA) networks in the GSM line of development, which is the sole radio access technology used in Europe, but is also in the rest of the world, being the most widely deployed globally, with over a billion subscribers. The GSM line is also in the States, Japan and Latin America, though in those geographies it competes with the rival CDMA technology, which worldwide has around 200 million subscribers.
Wagner pointed out that laptops with the 1x EV-DO connectivity (which is 3.5G in the CDMA world) have already gone on sale in the US from HP, with the operator being Verizon.
Though HP has the ability to enable HSDPA connectivity in its laptops too, it will wait until the third quarter to launch, by which time the processors will be available for higher data rates, and US as well as European coverage. There’s going to be tremendous churn in the silicon, with current chipsets being dual-mode and 1.8Mbps, going to tri-band and 3.6Mbps later in the year, Wagner explained.
The three bands in question will be 2.1GHz for European 3G networks and two for the US and Asia (1800MHz and 1900MHz). Wagner also pointed out that in reality the laptops will be quad-band, in that they will contain a further band for EDGE, the 2.75G connectivity which can provide a solid fallback when the laptop moves out of an area of 3G coverage.